South Africa’s prisons go hi-tech

22 August 2006

South Africa has unveiled a high-tech national control centre that will monitor movements in prisons throughout the country via surveillance cameras, turnstile gates and metal detectors all linked through a state-of-the-art network.

Developed by information technology firm Sondolo, the centre is part of an R88-million project to radically improve security in SA’s prisons.

Officials manning the centre in Pretoria will be able to monitor “strategic access points” in prisons countrywide, and to communicate with officials at local level, alerting them to security breaches the moment they are detected.

Details of inmates’ families and friends will also be logged into the system, making it easier to control prisoners’ access to the outside world.

The process of beefing up security in SA’s prisons – to prevent escapes as well as weapon and drug smuggling – started in June 2005.

Since then, over 1 500 cameras, 390 turnstile gates and hundreds of metal detectors have been installed in SA’s prisons, with more to come before the end of the year.

Opening the national control centre on Monday, Correctional Services Minister Ngconde Balfour said “the game was over” for criminals who undermined security at prisons.

Balfour said the government was considering installing the system in prison communal areas as well, to help combat violence among prisoners.

SouthAfrica.info reporter and BuaNews

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