Prisoners phone the justice minister… from behind bars with cellphones

Cellphones and the use of cellphones in correctional centres are banned, and any inmate who uses or is in possession of a cellphone is in breach of the law.

Masutha was briefing journalists about recent security breaches at SA’s prisons and the plans to reduce such breaches.

He said that over the past 12 months the department of correctional services has had to deal with several incidents of security breaches, ranging from escapes to the introduction of contraband, as well as misconduct.

The department had embarked on a number of responsive interventions, he said.

He revealed that, following a tip-off, the department had conducted a sting operation last Saturday in which the department’s emergency support team at the Baviaanspoort Correctional Centre in Tshwane had apprehended two young females for possession of drugs and alcohol which were destined for inmates they were ostensibly visiting.

The suspects were behind bars and an investigation – which would also seek to establish the complicity of some of the department’s officials – was under way.

Similar search operations were conducted at Boksburg, Modderbee and Johannesburg correctional centres and these operations had led to the confiscation of drugs and other contraband, said Masutha.

He said investigations had revealed that two correctional officials in Boksburg were supplying inmates with drugs, a matter which had been referred to the Hawks.

Masutha said that following the appointment of a new chief security officer at his department’s head office in January, a number of measures had been implemented to enhance security in the country’s correctional centres.

These included the establishment of a security committee to advise 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 which conducted unannounced searches, and specialised training of security personnel to improve their tactical capability.

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