Empangeni max prison raid reveals security failures and deviant conduct

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A raid at Empangeni’s Qalakabusha Maximum Correctional Centre revealed a distressing picture of rampant contraband smuggling.

The raid, led by Makgothi Samuel Thobakgale, Acting National Commissioner of the Department of Correctional Services (DCS), began at 3 a.m. on Tuesday, October 12, 2021.

Singabakho Nxumalo, a department spokesperson, said 37 mobile phones, chargers, dagga worth R12 000, muthi, pots, and money were among the items seized.

“These items indicate security failures and deviant behaviour by some correctional officials,” Nxumalo said of the situation.

Furthermore, Qalakabusha Correctional Centre has been identified by DCS as one of the facilities in need of immediate attention, according to Nxumalo. This comes after a string of daily escapes and contraband removals.

Inmates have escaped four times in the 2020/2021 fiscal year, with only one being apprehended so far. “The use of cellphones inside correctional centres has to be rooted out as we strive towards contraband-free centres. These gadgets are used to make threats, plan escapes, and orchestrate other illegal activities by inmates and their contacts in outside communities.”

The DCS has charted a course for altering South Africa’s correctional system’s future. This, according to Nxumalo, is a positive step toward redefining a penal system that is in line with our country’s goals. “However, we are frequently confronted with incidents that not only impair operations but also shame the brown uniform.”

Inmates detected with smartphones or other contraband will face charges under Section 23 (1) of the Correctional Services Act, Act 111 of 1998. They will also be chastised, including the suspension of privileges for a set amount of time, reclassification (downgrade), and other sanctions.

According to the Department, several of these breaches could be avoided if correctional facilities followed standard operating procedures and were adequately supervised.

“Hence, we have made it mandatory for every security breach to be fully investigated and corrective measures taken with immediate effect in order to restore normalcy.,” Nxumalo said.

It’s critical for the institution to assess operational processes regularly so that DCS doesn’t just respond to known breaches. 

However, it is proactive enough to prevent problems at the centres.

In order to reshape the future of corrections, DCS must first get the basics right. Today’s hunt is yet another example of why it’s essential to pay attention to what’s happening on the ground.

The department has implemented new trade instruments (as of March 2021), forcing required modifications in its centres.

The following are some of them:

  • The Area Commissioners Handbook
  • Head of Correctional Centre Handbook
  • Gang Combating Strategy
  • Overcrowding Reduction Strategy
  • Business Continuity Plan and Standing Operating Procedures (SOPs)

According to the Department, working sessions on these trade instruments are currently taking place around the country, and they are expected to result in a change on the ground.

Furthermore, all correctional facilities’ security must be reinforced. According to Nxumalo, this is so that DCS can increase inmate productivity, welfare, and rehabilitation through supporting programs and build the ability to administer and maintain correctional centres efficiently.

It is vital to emphasise that the raid at the Qalakabusha Correctional Centre is not the last, and more are planned. According to the department, those who disobey departmental policies should expect no leniency.

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