Correctional services is considering electronically tagging some inmates to reduce the prison population, the department’s national commissioner said on Thursday.
“By the end of the year we will present a programme to give us a pilot on how it [electronic tagging] can be used in our conditions,” Tom Moyane told reporters in Pretoria.
He said the cost of a tagging programme could be determined only once it had been properly researched.
At the moment, the country had 160 000 inmates, including 47 000 remand prisoners, some of whom judges were reluctant to grant bail because they had no fixed address.
The “comfortable zone” for the 241 correctional institutions was near to 110 000 inmates inmates.
Monyane said other measures were also being considered to try and reduce the country’s prison population.
He said South Africa had the ninth most overcrowded prisons in the world, with an exceptionally high rate of incarceration of remand prisoners.
Overcrowding had been reduced by 4.7% in the past year.
The Durban-Westville and Pretoria prisons were among the most overcrowded in the country.
Monyane said discussions were taking place within the security cluster of correctional services, justice and police to address the issue of remand prisoners and the denying of bail to those charged with petty offences.
“The issue of bail is highly contentious, but it is the prerogative of [the justice department]. The speed with which [remand] prisoners are sentenced needs to be speeded up.”
He said it was of great concern that the number of mentally ill, elderly, pregnant mothers and youth was increasing.
He said facilities needed to be upgraded to facilitate rehabilitation.
He declined to say how many corrections officials were currently suspended on full pay, but said he was concerned at how fast the cases against errant officials were being resolved.
“It is not happening at the pace that I would like it to. We need to have officials at their posts.”
Suspended officials could not be replaced, and as long as they were on suspension it impacted on the efficiency of the prison system.
Monyane said the department’s legal and labour relations unit had been “reinforced” to speed up dealing with suspended officials.
Referring to security, he said that an audit of institutions’ perimeters had been recently done.
At many of the 241 institutions, this was found to be inadequate and the department was currently installing perimeter fencing that was of an international standard.
Monyane said he was also unhappy at the situation at the country’s two privately run prisons in Bloemfontein and Louis Trichardt.
“We find it very strange that we need to get permission to gain access,” he said.
Monyane said that he was not against private prisons, but “not in the form that they exist now”. — Sapa