Officers at Windhoek Correctional Facility have since January seized 147 mobile phones from inmates and from people trying to smuggle cellphones into the facility, previously known the Windhoek Central Prison.
An inmate at the Windhoek Correctional Facility said wardens would continue confiscating cell-phones from inmates unless the mobile network is jammed.
Trial awaiting inmate, Ricardo Hoaeb, 29, said this on Thursday after a 27-year-old woman was apprehended when she tried to smuggle seven cellphones and chargers inside a suitcase purportedly containing food that she intended to take to an inmate at the facility.
The suitcase also contained Hoaeb’s food. He, however, denied ownership of the suitcase, saying it is for another inmate whom he does not know. Hoaeb and the detained woman met on social media and he thereafter asked her to deliver the food to him.
Hoaeb is in prison for the death of a truckdriver, who was allegedly hijacked and murdered near Tsumeb in May 2013. He faces a number of charges related to that incident, including robbery, hijacking, arson and escaping from lawful custody. The 27-year-old woman said she got the suitcase from Hoaeb’s friend after buying food items at a local supermarket. He had asked her to go and deliver it to his brother, who is a trial-awaiting inmate at the facility.
The woman, who cried profusely, said she has three children and her youngest is three-months-old.
Deputy Commissioner General for Correctional Operations Tuhafeni Hangula said his gut feeling tells him the woman is innocent. She told the officers that she thought she was bringing only foodstuff to Hoaeb.
Hangula said at one point the woman said while packing the food into the suitcase she felt a hard object and when she questioned the man he claimed he was in a hurry and had to travel out of the country.
Hangula said they called the man and enquired about the suitcase, but he claimed that someone else had also given him the suitcase. Hangula said the woman had nevertheless committed a criminal offence and he would hand her over to the police for smuggling contraband into prison.
Hangula explained that when the woman came to prison, she was searched. A prison warden realised that part of the suitcase’s handle was tampered with.
“Because of her vigilance she decided to find out why the bag was tampered with. When she peeped through the handle, she saw foreign objects hidden underneath… she found seven cellphones and their chargers,” Hangula said.
He added that the previous day (last Wednesday) they had also confiscated six mobile phones hidden in a hole in the floor. “They (prisoners) have a way of plastering the floor for us not to detect that the floor was tampered with,” he said.
He said of late they facie a serious challenge as they carry out their mandate to rehabilitate inmates, because the members of the community are working in cahoots with offenders. From January to date prison officials have confiscated 147 mobile phones at the Windhoek Correctional Facility.
He said women make up 80 percent of those used to bring cellphones into the prison, as they are vulnerable and are used to advance criminal activities. Hangula said another way that offenders bring cellphones into the facility is by inserting cellphones, or dagga, up their rectums.
“As thick as it is, when it is brought here it is inserted in the rectum. You may not believe it, but it is a reality and that’s why it is difficult to detect, but we have metal detector for cellphones,” said the Deputy Commissioner-General.
Hangula further said inmates use cellphones amongst other criminal activities, to threaten complainants and witnesses. “We are saying those mobile phones on our facilities are making our work difficult. Cellphones are not coming here by themselves. They are brought in by members of the public. We humbly request the public to assist us in achieving the mandate and objectives of this institution,” Hangula remarked, adding that some prison wardens also collude with offenders. He said the facility has a process in place for offenders to contact their relatives, but they have to work hard to enter that category.