Does the prison service have a plan to protect SA from dangerous jailbreakers?

Does the prison service have a plan to protect SA from dangerous jailbreakers?
Does the prison service have a plan to protect SA from dangerous jailbreakers?
Image: Anurak Ponapatimet /123RF

Justice Minister Michael Masutha must provide MPs with a plan on how his department will prevent jail breaks.

The Department of Correctional Services will appear on Thursday to brief the Parliament’s Portfolio Committee on Justice and Correctional Services on its annual performance plan and budget for 2018/19.

“We expect all accounting officers - including the executive authority - to inform the committee of plans on the way forward to prevent escapes. We will also enquire about investigations into what led to the escapes‚” said committee chairperson‚ Dr Mathole Motshekga.

He expressed the committee's concern at the jailbreaks‚ saying "in some instances‚ offenders serving long sentences for serious crimes have escaped".

"This puts the lives of our law abiding South Africans citizens at risk. It cannot be allowed to continue. Urgent intervention is required for the spate of escapes."

Motshekga said: "We need the minister and the two deputy ministers to appear before the committee in public in order to give a full account as to what they have been doing to address the tide of break-outs. This has been continuing for some time and poses a great risk to the general public. It is unacceptable. The committee will also enquire about the extent to which the department have implemented policy guidelines that are clear as to what needs to be done."

Earlier this week‚ the Hawks in KwaZulu-Natal shot and killed two suspects who had escaped from the Johannesburg Correctional Centre.

Sixteen escapees literally broke their way out of the detention centre in the early hours of Monday morning. They made their dash through a pipe shaft‚ used an object to break the wall and then proceeded to scale the fence. A countrywide manhunt was launched to recapture the detainees - who were awaiting trial prisoners on charges including murder‚ robbery and housebreaking.

On Tueday‚ the two suspects were spotted on the R33 in Greytown. Police said they opened fire on officers‚ whereafter officers returned fire. The two men were killed. Police seized a 9mm pistol with ammunition and a toy gun.

Meanwhile‚ the Judicial Inspectorate for Correctional Services has also expressed concern at the recent spate of prison escapes.

The inspectorate said the escapes might be related to possible unconducive conditions at the correctional centres.

Inspecting Judge Justice Johann van der Westhuizen is currently visiting several correctional facilities around the country to compile a report on the conditions of the correctional centres.

The inspectorate said this report would be made available to the minister of justice and correctional services with various recommendations once the visits have been completed and the report compiled.

The Democratic Alliance has called on the Minister‚ Masutha‚ to tell MPs why a permanent appointment has not been made in the position of national correctional services commissioner since Zach Modise retired in mid-2017.

The DA said the Johannesburg prison break had come less than a month after six inmates broke out of Pollsmoor prison in the Western Cape. “These escapes are concerning and have exposed weaknesses in the country’s prison system‚” said DA shadow deputy minister of justice and constitutional development James Selfe.

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