KZN prisons raided

2011-02-11 00:00

SEVERAL bags of dagga, cellphones, drugs, sharp objects and even a gun are some of the unauthorised items that were confiscated from prison inmates during the festive season, says regional commissioner Mnikelwa Nxele.

Nxele yesterday briefed the media on the seizure of the items at Pietermaritzburg New Prison.

On display were scores of bags of dagga, about 70 cellphones, a white powdery substance that is used as an ingredient in making the drug “sugars”, two home-made knives and bank­notes, including a U.S. dollar bill.

Correctional Services officials confiscated most of the items from inmates. Others were taken from family members during the department’s “Operation Vala”, which was conducted over the festive season to intensify security at the prisons.

Prisons targeted included the Durban Medium A, Durban Medium B, PMB Medium A, Ncome Medium B and Glencoe Correctional Centre.

Nxele said Operation Vala was instituted several years ago after the prisons service realised that attempts to escape and the smuggling of illegal substances picked up around the festive season.

“We have come to realise that during the festive season, prisoners do their utmost to be with their families.

“At times they are helped by their families to try to escape and some community members try to smuggle unauthorised articles into the correctional facility.

“At times, the security of the prisons is compromised by the officials working at the prisons.”

He said despite the challenges, the 2010/11 Operation Vala had been a resounding success.

Nxele said most of the items were found inside the prisons, but some were found on community members who tried to smuggle them while visiting the inmates.

Inmates in Westville prison were the worst offenders.

Nxele urged community members not to facilitate crimes inside prisons.

“In one detention institution in Durban, we confiscated a firearm that had been hidden in food.”

He conceded there are problems with corrupt officials.

“At times we have received reports of officials caught with cellphones and others accused by inmates of smuggling, and if such reports are substantiated by an investigation, the official involved could face a disciplinary hearing and could be dismissed.”

Nxele emphasised that officials are hired to rehabilitate the offenders. When they facilitate crimes they have no place in the correctional facilities.

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