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Body scanners to be installed in prisons after official bust trying to smuggle contraband

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The scanners will detect any hidden metals, weapons and drugs in a body of a person

Justice and Correctional Services Minister Ronald Lamola. Picture: Phando Jikelo / African News Agency (ANA)

IN AN EFFORT to clamp down on the smuggling of contraband into prisons, the Department of Correctional Services is installing body scanners in identified correctional facilities within six management areas.

Justice and Correctional Services Minister Ronald Lamola said the body scanners were introduced after an official was caught at St Albans Correctional Centre in the Eastern Cape trying to smuggle contraband.

“The aim of the scanners in question is a threat-detection solution which combines ultra-low radiation with maximum visibility, therefore addressing the challenges of smuggling of contrabands i.e. cellphones and drugs among others,” Lamola said.

“It will detect any hidden metals, weapons and drugs in a body of a person. The scanner will be able to search all body cavities without compromising the privacy of individuals and reduce the time taken to manually search inmates, officials and visitors,” he said.

Lamola revealed this when responding to parliamentary questions from IFP MP Themba Msimang, who asked if mechanisms in place to counteract the common practice where prison staff smuggled packages for inmates in exchange for money.

In his written response, Lamola said body scanners have already been installed across the big facilities.

These includes Kgosi Mampuru II, Local CC and Johannesburg Med A and B) in Gauteng, Pollsmoor Max and access control in the Western Cape and the Groenpunt Max and access control in the Free State.

Others are the St Albans Max and Medium A in the Eastern Cape, Durban Med A and B in KwaZulu-Natal and Barberton Max in Mpumalanga.

Lamola said there had been 181 cases of smuggling contraband in the past 12 months countrywide.

His response showed that Gauteng led with 121 cases, followed by the Eastern Cape with 17 cases, KwaZulu-Natal 14, Western Cape 13, Limpopo and Mpumalanga nine, Free State and Northern Cape seven.

The minister also said his department has reviewed the vetting policy to include continuous screening and integrity testing of personnel through the implementation of voice stress analysis (VSA).

Lamola said the VSA was considered as a professional non-invasive investigation system tool used in various risk management processes for emotion detection, personality and risk assessment and investigations.

“It is also a security investigation tool utilised to gather information in identifying internal fraud, smuggling activities and to stop theft of merchandise (Stores), equipment and company funds.”

He stated that the the deployment of the use of VSA will assist as a force multiplier and a deterrent to criminal activities and misconduct by officials and would-be perpetrators which will ultimately results in the eradication of contraband in prisons.

“It will further more ensure a security competent workforce and the integrity of the department and state.”

Lamola added that their standard operating procedures were in place which included conducting searches in correctional facilities.

“Confiscated contraband such as SIM cards and cellphones are handed over to Crime Intelligence for further operationalisation. Through this collaborative initiatives, numerous officials were arrested for being linked to gangs.”

Lamola said that they were also in the process of reviewing the departments’s security protocol.

“Therefore in addressing the challenge at hand, officials are sensitised to comply with security policies and procedures by ensuring that proper and regular searches of inmates, officials, visitors and services providers are conducted at access control points.

“For any non-compliance, consequence management must be undertaken and criminal cases opened with the SAPS,” he said.

Political Bureau