Court bid to halt de-tagging of prisoners

17 July 2017 - 18:28 By Kyle Cowan
Image: iStock

A company that provides GPS tracking devices to monitor over 500 prisoners is trying to stop the Department of Correctional Services from deactivating the tags‚ saying the move will put a strain on courts and the police.

Engineered System Solutions (ESS) have filed an urgent application in the High Court in Pretoria in order to force the department to stop removing the tags from parolees and awaiting trial prisoners.

The case will be heard on Tuesday.

The application is the latest in an ongoing row between the department and ESS‚ which provides the devices.

An internal departmental memo‚ which is attached to the application‚ has cited that “intensive and effective physical monitoring” would be required to maintain the safety of communities in which these offenders live.

The company questions whether correctional services has the capacity to properly track prisoners once tags have been removed.

ESS was earlier this year notified its contract would be cancelled with immediate effect‚ two years before the five-year agreement would end – amid repeated calls for payment from the department for outstanding invoices totalling more than R80-million.

The dispute over payment and the cancellation form part of another court battle by ESS.

In papers attached to the latest application‚ ESS chief executive Mario Ferreira has told the court that the issuing of the instruction to de-tag prisoners was an attempt to sabotage the ongoing dispute over payment.

“I have indicated previously that some of these individuals are criminals convicted of serious offences and I have absolutely no doubt the termination or interruption of the monitoring service will simply cause these individuals to be in a position to disappear only to become a further burden to the already overburdened and exhausted SAPS‚” Ferreira’s affidavit reads.

He says the company will suffer "irreparable harm" if the department removes the tracking devices.

"By sabotaging the project with ‘immediate termination’ the respondent (DCS) flaunts the provisions of the agreement knowing it will cause irreparable harm to the applicant.”

Ferreira also quotes extensively from the department’s memo ordering the de-tagging‚ dated 5 July 2017‚ which says certain parolees “might be loose” if the tracking devices are removed.

“The supervision committees should sit so as to amend the monitoring categories/phases of the de-tagged persons and in cases where the condition was set by the Courts‚ communications to the latter should be issued‚” the memo reads.

Another paragraph states “…de-tagged parolees/probationers/awaiting trial prisoners might be loose and thus will require a very controlled effective and intensive physical monitoring.”

Ferreira in his papers calls this “a preposterous consequence of the respondent’s ill-conceived internal decision to sabotage the agreement”.

DCS spokesman Logan Maistry confirmed the department would be opposing the application but declined to comment on further questions.

- TimesLIVE