Civil society groups have backed MPs regarding proposals to install closed-circuit television (CCTV) cameras in all 241 prisons in the country to curb sexual violence.
Sonke Gender Justice Network and Just Detention International told the parliamentary committee on correctional services yesterday that the department would need to increase its staff to be able to supplement the work that would be done by the CCTV cameras.
The organisation said that with rampant illegal activities inside cells it was time that the government sought other methods to clamp down on these illegal activities.
They said that CCTV cameras would be beneficial in gathering evidence against prisoners who are sexually abusing other inmates.
Emily Nagisa-Keehn, a policy specialist at Sonke Gender Justice Network, told MPs that the department of correctional services would have to employ people to monitor the cameras 24 hours a day.
She warned, though, that there must not be an overreliance by the department that CCTVs would prevent sexual violence in prisons.
Nagisa-Keehn said the department would have to come up with programmes aimed at tackling the problem.
Another important factor was that correctional services would have to increase its staffing capacity to be able to complement the work that will be done by the CCTV cameras, she said.
Programme director at Just Detention International Sasha Gear supported Nagisa-Keehn’s suggestion that the department would need to have more staff members.
“CCTVs alone without staff (complement) would be ineffective. They (CCTV cameras) need to be combined with staff vigilance and increased staff patrolling,” she said.
Committee chairperson Vincent Smith, an ANC MP, said the installation of CCTV cameras would not only address the question of sexual violence.
The instruments would be used to gather evidence against prisoners who violated any other laws inside the cells.
The cameras would be about ensuring human rights, said Smith.
“We can’t sit and do nothing for years. After hours inmates take over. You will never have enough warm bodies to patrol 241 centres 24 hours a day. It’s not a simple answer.
“It’s not a populist thing we are talking about,” said Smith.
He added that if the government did not act, it stood to be sued by prisoners for sexual abuses that take place inside the cells.
ANC MP Winnie Ngwenya said the CCTV cameras were a solution to the problem of sexual violence in prison.
“I know (those opposed to the plan) are going to tell us about the rights of inmates.
“What about the rights of those who are abused? We need to do something to protect those people,” said Ngwenya.