South Africa – The Department of Correctional Services (DCS) Commissioner, Makgothi Thobakgale, on Wednesday said the department will enhance prison security to address any potential risks ahead of the festive season .
“Proactive measures will be taken to prevent the smuggling of contraband and to deter any attempts at disorder,” Thobakgale said .
The Commissioner was speaking in Durban during the official launch of the department’s National Festive Season Security Operations Plan .
“We are going into the holiday season, a time of joy, a time of celebration, and a time of togetherness for many .
Yet, the festive season is also a period where the country experiences unique challenges related to elevated crime and security breaches in correctional facilities .
“Today’s launch of the DCS Festive Season Security Operations Plan is our commitment, as Correctional Services, towards safe and secure correctional centres .
He told the attendees that the safety of correctional officials is the department’s number one priority .
However, he raised concerns about the officials who continue to live under a cloud of insecurity following several recent attacks .
“This shocking and appalling behaviour by those who try to stop law enforcement agencies from carrying out their duties will not be tolerated .
An attack on law enforcement institutions is an attack on the State, and government views this in the most serious light .
He described the correctional facilities as an essential part of the justice system, as they are tasked with the rehabilitation responsibility and safe custody of those who have transgressed the laws that govern society .
“The safety of both correctional officials and inmates is paramount,” he stressed .
According to the Commissioner, overcrowding, gang activities, contraband smuggling and violence have become pervasive .
And this, according to him, does not only jeopardise the lives of those within facilities but also communities to which offenders eventually return .
“These challenges underscore the pressing necessity to enhance security measures within correctional centres .
Thobakgale believes that the festive season poses specific risks, including heightened emotions and increased social interactions among inmates .
“It is during these times that our collective vigilance becomes even more critical .
He stressed that this year’s festive season plan was not only about maintaining security but about fostering an environment where both inmates and staff can experience a sense of peace and stability .
“We aim to ensure that the spirit of the season is not overshadowed by incidents that compromise the safety of our facilities .
To achieve this, Thobakgale said they will implement multi-faceted operations .
These include increased vigilance and traffic monitoring as holidays often result in an increased number of visitors to correctional facilities as families try to maintain ties during special occasions .
“Strict visitor screening procedures will be in place to prevent the introduction of contraband, and to ensure that only authorised individuals are allowed access .
In addition, the department will also encourage inmates to participate in positive engagement programmes and activities as a distraction from potential conflicts, which also contribute to the rehabilitation process .
“We will strengthen our collaboration with external partners, including various law enforcement agencies and community organisations to ensure a comprehensive and coordinated approach to security .
“Information-sharing and joint initiatives can help track and apprehend individuals attempting to orchestrate criminal activities from within correctional centres,” said Thobakgale .
He is of the view that by addressing these factors and maintaining a proactive approach to safety and security, correctional facilities will be better equipped to function with ease .
“As a result, the well-being of both staff members and inmates during the holiday season shall find resonance .
The Commissioner also expressed his gratitude to the dedicated correctional officials who work tirelessly to maintain order and abide by the code of conduct in their daily routine .
“Your commitment to public safety is commendable and your efforts are invaluable .
Working in a correctional facility is challenging, and your resoluteness must be valued at all times .
He reminded his colleagues that their mission extends beyond the physical confines of correctional facilities .
But, according to the Commissioner, it is about fostering a safe society, with respect and dignity .
“Tightening security in our facilities is not merely a matter of institutional concern .
It is a collective responsibility that impacts the safety and well-being of the entire society .