Tagging pilot scheme: 3 back in prison

2012-11-23 00:00

IN the six months since its inception, three parolees who benefited from the year-long electronic tagging pilot scheme have been sent back to prison.

This after the three, one from KwaZulu-Natal and the other two from the Eastern Cape, continuously tampered with the GPS devices.

The R6,5 million pilot project in the form of a set of GPS tracking devices to keep track of parolees was officially launched at New Prison in Pietermaritzburg this week.

The set consists of a waterproof wristwatch-like bracelet and a cellphone/pager-like device.

The bracelet remains on the parolee’s wrist until the end of his prescribed supervision period, and he may not tamper with it in any way.

Since its inception, the pilot has seen 27 life-sentenced prisoners from KZN, who have since been granted parole, being monitored using this method.

Pumla Matibeka, the department’s chief deputy commissioner: social integration, said the initial plan was to tag 150 life-sentenced parolees around the country, but they had tagged only 119, 27 of whom are from KZN. She said this was part of the department’s efforts to increase its capacity to monitor parolees.

“Life-sentenced offenders have been in our centres for a long time. They’ve been in a controlled environment so we decided to come up with this idea of releasing them into their communities while closely monitoring them using this system. However, we have since sent three back to prison for continuously tampering with the device, despite several warnings,” said Matibeka.

She said at the end of the pilot next May, if the results were positive, a full-scale roll-out would be implemented.

“We have decided not only to experiment with life-sentenced offenders only, but to also look at others who were serving long-term sentences.”

Once the battery runs low, the gadgets give a beeping sound, alerting the parolee to charge the device. Some parolees ignore the signal.

A solar charger is provided on request to those who don’t have electricity.

Matibeka said some parolees have thrown the gadgets into rivers “but again, a signal is sent to the office with the gadget indicating its current location”.

DA correctional services shadow minister James Selfe said the tagging, with strict measures in place to deal with parolees who tamper with the devices, was an excellent idea.

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