No chance of prison breaks these holidays

Monday, December 3, 2018

Operation Vala was launched on Monday to tighten security at all the country’s Correctional Centres during the festive season.

During the festive season, the Department of Correctional Services experiences a high number of prison escapes because inmates long to spend Christmas with their families as well as commit other crimes.

Speaking at the launch at Baviaanspoort Correctional Centre, Deputy Minister of Justice and Correctional Services, Thabang Makwetla, said Operation Vala will be implemented in all the country’s 243 correctional centres.

The campaign does not only focus on escapes, but also on hostage takings, arson and the security risks these bring to the safety and security of staff, inmates and service providers.

During the operation, the department applies limitations on offender movements as well as certain food and other items.

“This is an operation in line with government’s efforts towards a safer season earmarked to guarantee safety for the country’s citizens and visitors during the festive season.

“As Correctional Services, our trend analyses indicates heightened efforts to escape and commit assaults during this time. It is therefore necessary that we leave nothing to chance,” Makwetla said.

The department, he said, is determined to make it impossible for inmates to break the security systems in their desperate pursuit of spending Christmas with loved ones.

“Operation Vala is not a mere crusade of empty words and paying lip-service, but it is a programme of action aimed at curbing all forms security breaches.”

During this year’s operation, officials will be doubling their efforts in addressing evolving threats, especially those involving illicit, harmful substances and assaults.

“We will continue to confiscate drugs and other contraband such as mobile phones, either at out entrances or inside correctional centres. It is therefore important that we do not only respond and react to security problems, but we must be proactive and get onto the front foot if we are to stay ahead of criminals,” Makwetla said.

As part of beefing-up security, body scanning equipment has been introduced in almost all the correctional centres.

Those wanting to commit crime are continuously developing counter strategies, and ensuring safety and security in correctional facilities is a critical function to which the department remains focused.

Makwetla said those that are in breach of security systems will face the full might of the law.

Operation Vala, an annual event, is conducted jointly with the members of the South African Police Services. –