There has been a significant decline in the number of escapes, assaults and other forms of attacks over the festive season at South African prisons since the launch of a security campaign six years ago. National Commissioner of Correctional Services Tom Moyane says escapes have declined from 48 in 2005/6 to five in 2010.
Moyane says the “programme was introduced in response to a disturbing pattern of offender perpetrated security breaches during the festive season for a number of years, as they apparently wanted to escape at all costs including leaving some of our officials and also offenders either dead, paralysed or serious injured.
“We regard these incidents as militating against our core objectives and values of building an enabling environment for effective rehabilitation, development and social re-integration of offenders. No inmate can effectively study, attend rehabilitation programmes and optimally use numerous rehabilitation interventions we make, if they live in fear and constant threat to their lives.”
The prisons commissioner said the campaign lasts 50 days and has been running for six years. “In short, we are winning the battle against incidents of escape, assaults and unnatural deaths although the levels of these incidents remain unacceptably high when we consider the standards we have set for ourselves of ‘zero escapes, zero assaults and zero unnatural deaths’ in our facilities,” he told jornalist syesterday. We remain also fully conscious of the fact that these are difficult issues to completely manage and stop in any correctional system any where in the world, which by its nature incarcerates those who do not flinch in inflicting any form of injury or pain to society.
Moyane says incidents of escape declined by 90% from 48 in 2005/06 to five in 2010/11 financial year; allegations of assault also “phenomenally declined” by 72% from 622 in 2005/06 to 171 in 2010/11, coming down from 243 last year; and incidents of unnatural deaths also declined “significantly” by 73% from 11 in 2005/06 to 3 in 2010/11 financial year.
“As earlier indicated, our major concern remains high levels of assaults particularly by inmates on other inmates as they constitute the biggest percentage of these incidents with 152 of the 172 victims being inmates.”
The commissioner said the 50-day campaign saw “hundreds of unannounced day and night raids which netted thousands of illegal items from across the country under the leadership of our regional commissioners supported by the Emergency Support Teams (EST) members. These illegal items included dagga, knives, cellphones, simcards and drugs – and all those found to be involved will go through internal disciplinary processes – including inmates and officials.”
The just-completed campaign focused on “Security : Back to Basics” which entailed strict adherence to security procedures, tightening of supervision of staff and inmates, pro-active management of security information and consequent and fair handling of complaints and requests of inmates, Moyane said.