St Albans vows to cut holiday escapes
EVERYONE wants to be home for Christmas – even those behind bars. But hopefully prisoners at Port Elizabeth’s St Albans Prison will not get the chance, with security beefed up for the festive season.
Operation Vala was launched by the Eastern Cape Correctional Services at St Albans Prison yesterday to highlight the increased number of escapes during December and January.
The project was also rolled out in other parts of the province and throughout the country.
Eastern Cape Correctional Services Commissioner Nkosinathi Breakfast said the number of prisoners who escaped during the festive season was high, but he vowed to lower the figures.
The latest provincial figures show 24 convicts escaped in December last year and January this year.
In the 2013-14 period, 15 escaped and in the 2012-13 season, 16 managed to get out.
Breakfast did not reveal a specific festive season escapee number for St Albans Prison.
“We found that this project would be beneficial in ensuring that prisoners do not escape from our facilities. Criminals want to be outside and we decided security measures need to be upgraded in order to prevent this from happening,” Breakfast said.
Many escaped to be with their families or to commit more crimes, he said.
He refused to divulge what new security measures would be implemented. A shortage of staff has also plagued prisons, but Breakfast said new recruits would join in the near future.
Overcrowding is also a major issue at St Albans, as well as at other prisons in the province.
St Albans houses about 19 000 inmates even though it is only meant to cater for 13 000.
Breakfast said the normal ratio of guards to prisoners was one correctional officer for every 40 inmates.
But while he did not give a specific number of guards at St Albans, he said he was aware of one officer looking after nearly 80 inmates.
St Albans management area commissioner Mandla Jam said recreational programmes for inmates would also be conducted during Operation Vala.