In the 2014/15 financial year alone, 9 447 cellphones and 5 486 SIM cards have been confiscated from convicted inmates around South African prisons.

This was revealed in a written parliamentary reply from the department’s minister, Mike Masutha, to a question posed by the Democratic Alliance’s (DA) Tandeka Gqada, shadow deputy minister for human settlements on 12th June.

Gqada had asked whether or not steps has been taken to prevent the use of unauthorised communication products within prisons by remanded detainees and convicted inmates.

In the reply, Masutha detailed figures dating back to the 2009/10 financial year. Since then, 32 492 cellphone have been seized from remanded detainees, and 31 262 from inmates.

Between 1st April and 31May, the beginning of the 2015/16 financial year, 1693 cellphones have been confiscated from detainees and 2430 from inmates.

Over 4 600 SIM cards were taken in the 2014/15 financial year from detainees and 5 486 from inmates.

Altogether, 98 413 devices have been confiscated since 2009.

The reply also lists other communication products such as microSD cards, chargers, 3G modems, DSTV Walkers and hard drives. Below are tables with the full figures.

Confiscations from detainees:

Screenshot (564)Confiscations from inmates:

Screenshot (565)

According to Masutha, his department has launched a few security campaigns that involve tasks such as searching detainees, inmates, cells and goods, partnering with other state law enforcement agencies in finding sustainable solutions to gang-related issues in prisons and installing cellphone detectors and body scanners.

“In the face of such high volume of illegal communications devices in prisons, it is astonishing that interventions such as signal jamming technology are not already in use in prisons,” Gqada said, referring to the signal jamming saga that played out in parliament earlier this year at the State of the Nation Address 2015.

“While the eventual detection of these devices is laudable, prevention is always better than cure – prison officials are clearly failing in this respect as well,” he added.

Gqada said she will write to Masutha to request that he install signal jammers in every prison as soon as possible.

[Source – DA, image – CC 2.0 by Public Domain]