Move to tighten security in jails
OVERCROWDING and reported breaches of safety and security in prisons has prompted Parliament's portfolio committee on correctional services to suggest drastic policy-related measures to rectify these concerns.
The committee visited Johannesburg Central Prison as part of its oversight duties to thrash out issues affecting correctional services facilities in Gauteng.
Present at the frank discussions were regional representatives of the judiciary, prosecuting authority, legal fraternity, community organisations, parole boards and regional and local correctional services authorities.
Overcrowding and reported breaches of security and inmates' safety and proposed methods of dealing with the problems were top of the agenda.
Committee chairman Vincent Smith started by proposing four policies that he said were already being "considered" in Parliament.
He said the committee wanted to see cameras installed in all areas of prison facilities, jamming cell-phone signals in areas of prison facilities, finding other areas to use female prison warders instead of guarding dangerous male offenders. He urged the Department of Justice and Constitutional Development to find methods of properly implementing and monitoring alternative sentencing for those guilty of minor crimes.
Smith said prisons should start looking at using inmates to maintain facilities, instead of relying on outsourcing or using the Department of Public Works.
He said jobs like fixing taps, painting and other forms of labour could both skill and lighten the financial burden on facilities.
Gauteng has 26 correctional facilities accommodating 38,979 offenders. Of these, 25,174 are sentenced offenders, while 13,805 are remanded detainees.
The facilities are designed to hold about 20,000 prisoners.
Johannesburg Prison, popularly known as Sun City, has 9,827 inmates, including 4,716 sentenced and 5,111 awaiting trial prisoners.