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The Correctional Services Department yesterday denied there was a security threat at prisons after a surveillance contract with a security firm came to an end.
Regional commissioners were making contingency plans to ensure no escapes occurred during the "short-term challenge", said spokesperson Manelisi Wolela.
"Advanced security technology is only an add-on to our existing security system at prisons, of which the human resource element is the most important," he said. According to a Sunday Times report the department's contract with Sondolo IT, which was responsible for providing almost 600 private security staff to 66 prisons throughout the country, ended on Friday. The company withdrew its staff from the 72 control rooms they had been manning at 6am on Friday morning. This left facilities such as Pretoria Central, Johannesburg Prison, Cape Town's Pollsmoor Prison and Durban's Westville Prison, as well as five regional control rooms and a national control one, without surveillance capability.
"The human resources element is the most important in any security system," said Wolela. "Our greatest achievements [in reducing the rate of escapes per year] were before we installed the [surveillance] technology," he said.
He acknowledged that the surveillance system was an important part of the prisons' integrated security systems, and said the department had already made plans to fill the gap by advertising posts.
"We have advertised the positions for people who already have the expertise and, with the packages we offer, we are absolutely certain that we will get people with the expertise needed," he said. - Sapa