Correctional services to beef up security over festive season to prevent escapes

2018-12-03 16:06
Deputy Minister of Justice and Correctional Services, Thabang Makwetla. (GCIS)

Deputy Minister of Justice and Correctional Services, Thabang Makwetla. (GCIS)

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The department of correctional services will be limiting offender movement as part of its plan to tighten security over the festive season. 

The department says this is because there is usually an increase in prison escapes and assaults throughout the 243 correctional centres in the country during this period. 

The announcement was made by Department of Correctional Services Deputy Minister Thabang Makwetla at the Baviaanspoort Correctional Centre, on the outskirts of Pretoria, on Monday morning during the launch of the annual Operation Vala campaign.

"As correctional services, our trends analysis indicates heightened efforts to escape and commit assaults during this time," said Makwetla.

Read: Two 'Sun City' escapees shot dead in KZN

"It is, therefore, necessary that we leave nothing to chance, and make it impossible for inmates to break our security systems in their desperate pursuit of spending Christmas with loved ones."

The department added that this year's operation was different as its efforts would be redoubled to address evolving threats, especially those involving illicit and harmful substances and assaults at the centres.  

Smuggling to be addressed

"As of today, we are not only stepping up security but we will enforce limitations on offender movement. It is for this reason that we will be intensifying indoor activities and games, which will see inmates involved in hand ball, five-a-side soccer, board games, table tennis and other activities," said Makwetla.

The operation will also address the smuggling of drugs and other contraband into prisons.

Read: Prison escapes down from 1 244 a year to 50 - Correctional Services

"We continue to confiscate drugs and other contraband, such as mobile phones, either at our entrances or inside correctional centres. A clear demonstration that we are in a battle, and I dare say we will never retreat nor surrender.

"Smuggling has gone from the crude and opportunistic: a friend or family member chancing their luck, to sophisticated and systematic, overseen by criminal gangs.

"It is, therefore, important that we do not only respond and react to security problems, but we must be proactive and get onto the front foot if we are to stay ahead of criminals.

Makwetla said Operation Vala would solidify safety and security in the department's correctional centres and use unique measures that will eliminate avenues for contraband to enter the system.

"Special emphasis will be placed at strategic areas, with increased visibility, and involvement, of managers at all levels in operational activities. This will be coupled with amplified supervision of officials, as well as decreasing idleness among inmates," Makwetla added.

The department further said that those in breach of security systems, including corrupt correctional officials, would face the full might of the law.

News24 previously reported that escapes from South African prisons have significantly decreased over the past two decades.

In the 2016/2017 year, only 50 prisoners escaped compared to the previous financial year, during which 71 people managed to escape from prison.

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