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Prison security to be tightened after breaches

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Justice Minister Ronald Lamola being sworn in by Chief Justice Mogoeng Mogoeng

Full body scanners will be installed at various correctional centres throughout the country to combat the smuggling of illegal substances in prisons.

Correctional Services Minister Ronald Lamola on Wednesday said regular patrols, frequent searches of cells, control over objects entering correctional centres, as well as searches of visitors, will be monitored closely by corrections management.

Addressing the media in Cape Town following instances of security breaches at the Durban Westville Correctional Centre, Lamola said safety and security in correctional facilities is paramount and it must be clearly understood that security controls are non-negotiable.

The centres identified to get body scanners are:

•             Durban Correctional Facility;

•             St Albans Correctional Facility;

•             Johannesburg Correctional Facility;

•             Kgosi Mampuru II Correctional Facility;

•             Pollsmoor Correctional Facility;

•             Barbeton Correctional Facility and

•             Groenepunt Correctional Facility.

“The Department of Correctional Services has made significant strides in redefining the purpose of corrections in South Africa. Security remains the cornerstone in the delivery of our constitutional mandate. We will not compromise on this.

“The Department of Correctional Services remains a key player in the criminal justice system, hence it has employed a multi-disciplinary strategy in its operations, resulting in an overwhelming number of offenders participating in various rehabilitation programmes,” Lamola said.

The Minister said officials at correctional centres must maintain professional conduct at all times to avoid the unfortunate episodes.

“This will ensure that the provision of a safe and secure environment, as well as the creation of an enabling environment for correction and rehabilitation is realised.

“This will propel a coordination of systematic interventions aimed at preventing, minimising and eventually eliminating all corrupt and negligent practices that may jeopardise the personal safety of inmates, staff and service providers,” Lamola said.

The installation of the scanners was sparked by recent incidents where inmates were recorded openly taking a white substance believed to be drugs. In another video recording, prison officials are seen agitating inmates to fight amongst themselves.

A search operation was conducted in the identified cell, where contraband was found. Some of the confiscated items include 41 tablets of mandrax, 334 slopes of dagga, seven packages of dagga, six cell phones, four cell phone chargers, eight earpieces, four sim cards, one smoking pipe and one memory stick.

The three identified inmates appearing on the video recording were transferred to the only ultramax correctional facility in South Africa, which is called eBongweni in Kokstad. This is a referral centre not only for hardened criminals; it also caters for inmates with extreme behavioural challenges.

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