Cape Town - A year after the start of an initiative to install closed-circuit television (CCTV) in jail cells, prison bosses still have to adopt a formal position on the matter.
Correctional services chief operations officer Nontsikelelo Jolingana said on Wednesday her department had not yet done a proper study on the feasibility of using this technology.
She told Parliament’s correctional services portfolio committee her department wanted to take part in discussions and debate around the installation of such systems.
“(But) we have not yet taken a formal management position on the use of CCTV cameras.”
Some “desk-top research” had been done.
“That document is still in a very raw format... which we cannot say is the position of the department.”
For this reason, the department was sceptical about making a presentation, Jolingana said.
Earlier, committee chairman Vincent Smith said its year-old initiative was the result of information garnered during oversight visits to prisons.
It was also prompted by letters and deputations from inmates, and from department officials.
On the feasibility and appropriateness of CCTV in correction and remand detention cells, he said the committee’s view was “we need to use technology to improve service delivery”.
He noted that the department’s core mandate was security and the rehabilitation of inmates, but said this could not happen “in an environment where human rights are abused with impunity.
“So... if I got back to my cell at 5pm, when officials left, and the gangsters took over and raped me, or forced me to put contraband up all sorts of body orifices and so on, there cannot be any rehabilitation.”
The committee had heard from prison officials that there were staffing problems.
“We thought CCTV would assist in that regard,” Smith said.
The committee had consulted various concerned parties.
Initially, there was scepticism around possible constitutional problems with regard to inmates' right to privacy.
“But many people have now agreed that the risks of not (putting in CCTV) far outweigh (these) risks.”
The committee had not heard any sort of protest or complaint, including from the inmates themselves.
Smith said the committee would now proceed to finalise its report, which would be made public on completion.
Jolingana said her department still wanted an opportunity to “engage thoroughly” on the matter.
According to reports, there were 214 assaults, in which six inmates died, in South African prisons last year. - Sapa