Prisoners 'will disappear' if tags are deactivated
A company that provides GPS tracking devices used to monitor the movements of more than 500 prisoners is trying to stop the Department of Correctional Services from deactivating the devices, saying the move will put a strain on courts and the police.
Engineered System Solutions has filed an urgent application in the Pretoria High Court for an order prohibiting the prisons department from removing the devices, known as "tags", from parolees and awaiting-trial prisoners.
The case will be heard today.
The application is the latest move in the row between the department and Engineered System Solutions, which supplies the tags.
An internal departmental memo, which is attached to the ESS application, says that "intensive and effective physical monitoring" will be required to maintain the safety of communities near to where offenders live.
The company questions whether the department has the capacity to track prisoners once the tags have been removed.
ESS was earlier this year told that its five-year contract with the department would be cancelled two years early. ESS has made repeated calls for payment by the department on outstanding invoices totalling more than R80-million.
The dispute over payment and the cancellation of the contract form part of another ESS court battle.
In papers attached to the latest application, ESS CE Mario Ferreira claims the instruction to detag prisoners was an attempt to sabotage the dispute over payment.
"I have indicated previously that some of these individuals are criminals convicted of serious offences and I have absolutely no doubt that the termination or interruption of the monitoring service will simply cause these individuals to be in a position to disappear and become a further burden to the already overburdened and exhausted police," Ferreira's affidavit read.
He said ESS would suffer "irreparable harm" if the department removed the tracking devices.
"By sabotaging the project with immediate termination the respondent flaunts the provisions of the agreement knowing it will cause irreparable harm to the applicant," it read.
Ferreira quoted extensively from a July 7 departmental memo ordering the detagging that says certain parolees "might be loose" if the tracking devices are removed.
"The supervision committees should 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 department memo read.