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Operations under way to rid prisons of contraband, rogue officials

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Offenders set mattresses alight at correctional centres during security operations to rid cells of contraband items at 243 facilities.

THE DEPARTMENT of Correctional Services has indicated that the suspension of visits to correctional centres during the national Covid-19 lockdown has also prevented contraband from entering its facilities during this period. 

The National Commissioner of Correctional Services, Arthur Fraser, said that internal investigations were under way after offenders set mattresses alight at the Krugersdorp, Worcester and Leeuwkop correctional centres during security operations to rid cells of contraband items at 243 facilities.  

“Burning of state property is a criminal offence and we will leave no stone unturned in making sure that all those involved in such acts of criminality are brought to book and the law takes its course,” said Fraser.

He stated that these “acts of hooliganism” would not be tolerated by the department.

“No amount of irritation can propel someone to destroy state property worth thousands of rand, funded by the taxpayer, where the lives of other offenders and correctional officials were placed at risk.” 

Fraser added that the possession and use of mobile phones and other gadgets by offenders were “of serious concern”.

“Such items will be rapidly confiscated and removed from all centres. The limited movement has meant that the security officials are able to conduct targeted searching exercises. As a result, confiscated items have little room to find their way back into the cells.” 

He indicated that they had managed to identify cases where unscrupulous officials were directly involved in smuggling contraband.

“The net is closing in on them. Correctional Services has a duty to fight corruption and criminal behaviour. We will not hesitate to take action against rogue elements in the department who collude with offenders to undermine security in our centres by enabling contraband to be smuggled. To date, several investigations are under way to attend to officials who have been implicated in these rogue activities.” 

Fraser added that the incitement of offenders was “a reckless and very harmful exercise”. 

“The department is committed to transparency, and accountability. Processes and procedures are in place for offenders to raise their concerns within correctional centres, and these shall be followed at all times. The department is resolute in its operations to clean up and remove contraband from correctional facilities around the country.” 

He warned that offenders who flouted internal rules and regulations would face internal disciplinary processes in line with relevant sections of the Correctional Services Act.