Pretoria: Correctional Services Minister Sibusiso Ndebele has welcomed the decrease in the number of escapes from the country’s prisons.
Over the past decade (2002/03 to 28 August 2012), 281 escapees were recorded during 2002/03 and 41 last year (2011/12). Over the past four years, as at 28 August 2012, 225 escapees were reported with the majority of 67 escapees in the Free State/Northern Cape region and 20 in the Limpopo/Mpumalanga/North West region. Remand detainees accounted for 51% (114 out of 225) escapees.
The latest prison escape was on 25 August, where 11 remand detainees escaped after holding officials hostage at the Barkly East Correctional Centre in the Eastern Cape.
Correctional Services official Mzukisi Michael Dusubana, 54, was shot and fatally wounded.
“Although we are encouraged by reports that the department officials are succeeding in the down management of escapes, one escape is one too many.
“One escape may result in the loss of life and/or injuries as was the case on 25 August 2012 where Dusubana was shot and fatally wounded,” said Minister Ndebele in a statement on Thursday.
All escapees have since been re-arrested. Dusubana will be laid to rest on Saturday, 8 September.
“An escape from our custody constitutes a security breach of the highest order. Not only does this mean that our alertness or systems were insufficient, but it also constitutes an immediate threat to society because an inmate on the run needs to sustain himself and, therefore, it is likely that it will cause him to commit another crime in the process,” he said.
Ndebele said it was against this background that the department was continuously assessing and reassessing its security strategies and plans as well as putting in place security infrastructure to assist in adequately securing correctional centres.
The measures he said included securing offenders who were working outside the walls of correctional centres, those who are in transit or attending court hearings as well as those guarded in public hospitals.
Information received on planned escapes assisted the department to put in place preventative measures.
The department is urging officials, inmates, service providers and members of the public to provide us with information on planned escapes that they may be aware of.
Information can be passed on to managers of correctional centres, but may also be reported to the department’s anti-corruption hotline number 0800 701 701 or the nearest police station.
To better manage potential escapes, the department has implemented various measures including the following:
* Improved performance by correctional officials in complying with security directives and minimum security standards;
* Continuous review of security directives and systems – also learning from investigations into previous escapes;
* Improved security equipment, including security fences installed at high risk correctional centres;
* Continued motivation of staff with calls for them to be ever alert, and not to let their guard down;
* Swift and comprehensive investigation of security breaches to identify causative factors – systems failure or neglect; and
* Appropriate disciplinary measures in the event of negligence, and even criminal investigation by the SAPS where aiding and abetting an escape is suspected.