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Correctional Services tighten security during festive season

by Edwin Tshivhidzo
on 24 Nov 2008
BuaNews Online
BuaNews Online

The Department of Correctional Services has tightened security through the Operation Vala campaign which aims to ensure that there are no prison escapes during the festive season.

Launching the campaign at the Zonderwater Correctional Center on Monday, Correctional Services Minister Ngconde Balfour said the department was prompted to introduce the campaign after realising that most prison escapes occurs during the festive season.

Operation Vala includes biometric access control with cameras and monitors as well as high security fencing with motion detectors.

Also as part of security measures, inmates' privileges such as receiving food parcels and other goods would be restricted.

Minister Balfour also switched on the department's R500 million state-of-the art security system which monitors movements in prisons countrywide.

He said over the years they have been faced with security breaches and incidents of assaults among others which have left officials dead or injured.

"We have been challenged for many years by security breaches, incidents of assaults within our facilities as well as escapes.

"Many of our members have either lost their lives or suffered severe injuries during these escapes, a situation that we obviously could not allow to continue unabated," Minister Balfour said.

In 2005, one of the department's officials Dirk Thiart was shot nine times by inmates during an attempt to escape from the Zonderwater Corrections Center. He is now paralysed and confined to a wheelchair.

However, from 2005 to 2007, the department has reduced escapes by 66 percent and the incidents of assaults have declined by 55 percent during the same period.

Minister Balfour has assured members of society that his department was doing all it can to ensure their safety and called on the public to assist where they could.

"We also call on families, communities and other role players to assist us by not trying to smuggle illegal substances into prisons." - BuaNews

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