THE Lesotho Correctional Service (LCS) Acting Commissioner, Thabang Mothepu said security remains tight at the maximum facilities, emphasising that he was confident that the various security mechanisms introduced over the years were effective enough to prevent any escape attempts by inmates, including those implicated in high profile cases.
In an interview this week, Acting Comm Mothepu rubbished allegations of a plot by some correctional officers to facilitate the escape of certain inmates.
“What we experienced late last year concerning security, was a fabrication of an issue by some mischievous elements who wanted to create a storm out of nothing by peddling falsehoods,” Acting Comm Mothepu said.
He explained that in the midst of these negative forces, there was need to lead an effective reconfiguration of LCS to ensure that all staff members are professionals who trusted each other, worked together and not compromised by any external forces with hidden agendas.
“It’s important to understand that we have a situation that seems to indicate that there are certain individuals who want to take control of the LCS, and at times, working with some unprofessional elements within our organisation who are the peddlers of fake information. I wonder what their objective is. But I can say that our systems are strong; we are a professional entity that is part of the Government of Lesotho and those on a different mission within the organisation need to change or ship-out.”
He said a lot has happened since his appointment, including developments that have seen some high-profile inmates in LCS’ custody. Acting Comm Mothepu further explained that over the years, LCS has been handling high profile inmates and will continue to deliver its services effectively.
“We will not lose focus, in fact, if there are some people who really have some information and evidence of security threats, they are welcome to come to us and share that information. We will act on it. What is dangerous is to use the hype around some inmates in our custody to create issues that cause unnecessary alarm. That really drags the organisation back when all we are trying to do is to go forward. The fact of the matter is that, at the moment we do not have any complex situations, which the organisation feels we are unable to handle with regards to the security of inmates connected to high-profile cases or any other inmates,” Acting Comm Mothepu said.
He said the Correctional Service was not only dealing with certain inmates some people were interested in, but also many other inmates facing and convicted of serious crimes. “It is in our best interest not to neglect any of our duties or to work against the mandate LCS was created for through the constitution of Lesotho.”
He said LCS has positioned highly professional people in all key positions as one of the many mechanisms of strengthening security.
“I have a clear understanding that, when it comes to issues that have to do with security management and command, we need to have competent professionals who understand the vision of the LCS, appreciate our context and how to handle matters related to the institution.”
He said efforts to continue strengthening the organisation’s systems to meet its annual targets were on-going. This entailed, he said, ensuring that all staff spoke the same language and were at the same wave-length in terms of capacity to execute their various duties.
“We all need to understand why we come to work everyday. Remember most of us did not know each other before the LCS. Our work brought us together. It is that work we should do and execute professionally,” Acting Comm Mothepu said.
He said this year, the Correctional Service will focus on skills development programmes, and also ensure that the organisation’s good work spoke for itself through improved visibility programmes.
“We would like our development projects to be known and we plan to robustly engage with the media and various partners working in the areas of inmates’ rehabilitation, health, education, re-integration and other various forms of empowerment. We work with people (inmates) who need a lot of support and while we do what we can, we will also reach out to other actors for support to help improve the lives of the inmates after their release.”
Strengthening collaboration, he said, will help LCS to improve its services while exposing their work and challenges to actors who can provide support, particularly in the area of tertiary education for the inmates.
He said a good number of inmates serving long sentences have completed and passed their secondary school education but could not get assistance to proceed to tertiary education.
Acting Comm Mothepu said there was need to develop programmes that would assist many inmates who have demonstrated real potential academically.