Crime behind bars

Kitso Ramono
LAYING DOWN THE LAW: Marathe and her Deputy addressing the media

Prison Intelligence Unit formed to tackle cellphones and drugs smuggling by inmates

In one of her last public outings as Botswana Prisons Services Commissioner before being redeployed to the Police’s top post, Dinah Marathe expressed worry over the high levels of contraband being smuggled into prison facilities.

Speaking at a press briefing on the resolutions of the Botswana Prisons Service Senior Officers Conference 2024 in Francistown recently, Marathe noted inmates are assisted by close friends, relatives, and in some instances prison guards, to sneak unlawful substances into prison.

Marathe further indicated cell phones and dagga were the most common unlawful items found in prisons.

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“We have a number of inmates who connive with other people outside prison to bring in unlawful materials that are not allowed in prisons. This they do in conjunction with members of the public, be it relatives, close friends, even our officers,” she said.

Marathe said members of the public conceal contraband in lotions, food, and other items brought for the offender during visiting hours and court appearances, while some rogue warders sell phones and drugs to inmates.

“As I speak with you, we have fired two officers for smuggling contraband in our jail facilities; any officer found conspiring with prisoners to bring in contraband will be dismissed. Meanwhile, offending prisoners are sent over to the police; we have a handful who have cases before our courts of law for bringing contraband into prison,” she stated.

Addressing how they intend to combat this issue, which she described as one of the most pressing concerns in Botswana prisons, Marathe said they have established new prisons units, including an intelligence unit and a police unit, whose duty it is to combat this issue.

“These units will be working with other agencies like the DIS, Botswana Police Service to ensure they follow all the information that will assist to dismantle some syndicates working with our prisoners to break the law,” said Marathe, adding they are also in the process of acquiring technologically advanced equipment to deal with smuggling contrabands.

Although she will no longer be there to see it through, Marathe revealed the Prison Service will undergo big changes this year, rebranding to a Correctional Service.

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This includes changing their khaki uniform to a fresher look in order to improve prisoners’ morale and public image.

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