With the festive season in sight, the Department of Correctional Services (DCS) will be tightening security at its prisons through Operation Vala to combat festive season escapes.
Operation Vala (a Nguni word meaning close) is an annual intervention aimed at tightening security to prevent festive season related escapes and assaults which tend to escalate during that period.
“There will be increased supervision of officials as well as decreased idleness amongst inmates, which also encourages security breaches. Operation Vala will run from 1 December 2018 to 11 January 2019,” said Minister Michael Masutha.
Just this past weekend, the department conducted a sting operation on Saturday, 17 November following a tip-off.
During the operation, the DCS emergency team at Baviaanspoort prison caught two young females for possession of drugs and alcohol, which were destined for inmates which they were visiting.
“The suspects are behind bars and investigations that seek to establish the complicity of some DCS officials is currently underway,” said the Minister.
In another incident in Boksburg, two Correctional Services officials were found to be supplying inmates with drugs. The matter has since been referred to the hawks.
“The operations led to the confiscation of drugs and other contrabands,” said Masutha.
Following the appointment of a New Chief of Security officer in January this year, a number of measures have been implemented to improve security countrywide.
The measures include the establishment of the security committee that advices the department on security related matters, the procurement of contraband detection equipment, implementing consequence management resulting from security breaches conducting special operations by the emergency support team and specialised training of security personnel to improve their tactical capabilities.
In this regard, from the period April 2017 to March 2018, the DCS took action against 3 847 officials for various acts of misconduct. Of these 128 were dismissed, while 2 743 were issued with warnings.
A total of 99 officials were suspended with no pay.
Overcrowding at DCS centres
In response to overcrowding and in order to enhance the bed space capacity, the DCS is set to complete four additional centres by the end of 2019.
The facilities include Standerton, C-Max, Kgosi Mampuru and Tzaneen. The facilities will provide bed space capacity of 1 542.
“They will also add to the range of measures to deal with overcrowding which leads to security compromises and other undesirable outcomes,” said the Minister.
Masutha also said heads of centres are receiving trading to optimize the running of their centres and tighten security.
He appealed to staff and the public at large to assist with the fight against drug smuggling and criminality at facilities.
“Despite our efforts at addressing the criminality in our facilities, we are the first to acknowledge that we are far from overcoming this.
“And I would therefore like to call upon DCS staff members and the public in general to assist us in fighting drug smuggling and elements of criminality at our facilities,” said the Minister.