_: Correctional Services Minister Sibusiso Ndebele has re-iterated his commitment to improving conditions in correctional centres across the country.
“As government, we remain fully committed to our shared vision of a caring and just society enjoining us to afford even those who err against society the opportunity to correct and mend their ways under humane conditions. We must go all out to rehabilitate and create conditions for those seriously seeking opportunities for change in their lives to access them.
“On the other hand, we need to accept that crime and criminality is entirely about failures in society and not a direct consequence of the failures of the system of Corrections. Preventing a life of criminality begins with the family unit, the social fibre and the opportunities for growth that our children get access to.
“The Department of Correctional Services (DCS) is passionate about galvanising understanding and support for our transformative agenda from prisons to corrections, and preparing those of our offenders who need to get ready to be reintegrated as functional members of society.
“This is being achieved through implementation of the White Paper and Correctional Services Act of 1998, through improving departmental administration, embedding transformation and ensuring compliance with the Constitution and other relevant legislation.
Over the past five years, bold strides have been taken in providing better services to inmates, including taking care of their physical needs and their need for correction and rehabilitation. We are dealing with overcrowding in a sustained and integrated manner. Feasibility studies for new correctional centres are underway.
Next year, the following centres have been approved for construction: 2×500 bed capacity centres each for LMN (Limpopo, Mpumalanga and North West Region) and Eastern Cape, 1×500 bed capacity centre for Western Cape as well as a 1 000 bed capacity centre in KwaZulu-Natal. Construction on six centres, and an additional 12 centres of between 500 and 1 500 bed capacity, will also take place in the near future.
“DCS is currently implementing a pilot project for electronic monitoring of certain categories of inmates on parole, which started on 14 February 2012. It is our view that electronic monitoring should be extended to other categories of offenders, including offenders still serving custodial sentences.
It is also our intention to bring before the JCPS cluster proposals on the consideration of the use of electronic monitoring, as part of alternative sentencing for minor offences. This will ensure that only those who committed serious offences serve a custodial sentence.
“After promulgation of the Correctional Matters Amendment Act, the department has put in place a plan to operationalise the implementation of the new Act. The department now has a fully-fledged Branch for Remand Detention and 23 distinct centres for remand detainees have been established.
“The first state funded Halfway House was opened in February this year. We had identified the real need to prepare offenders to function normally in society after their release, by creating a bridge that can help them adjust to the movement from incarceration to re-integration. This Halfway House is currently housing juveniles, who initially could not be released as a result of lack of a support system. The next category of offenders who will benefit from Halfway Houses will be women.
“Section 85 of the Correctional Services Act establishes an independent Judicial Inspectorate for DCS, under the control of an Inspecting Judge, to facilitate the inspection of correctional centres so that the Inspecting Judge may report on the treatment of inmates and conditions in correctional centres.
The President appointed the Honourable Judge Vuka Tshabalala (retired Judge President for KwaZulu-Natal) as the Inspecting Judge for three years from 1 November 2011. This oversight mechanism is to safeguard and protect the rights of inmates,” said Minister Ndebele.
Other measures being implemented to improve conditions at correctional centres include:
Managing levels of Remand Detainees (RD’s) through the Integrated Justice System Case Management Task Team and Inter-Sectoral Committee on Child Justice.
Managing levels of sentenced inmates through improving effective and appropriate use of conversion of sentence to community correctional supervision, release on parole, and transfers between correctional centres to address overcrowding.
Ensuring progress with DCS capital works programme to upgrade correctional facilities and to build new correctional centres that are both cost effective and rehabilitation oriented.
Encouraging debate in South Africa about reason for incarceration as a sentence and encouraging an approach to appropriate sentencing that is focused on facilitating rehabilitation.
Enhancing community correctional supervision so that it can be better utilised as an appropriate sentence for less serious crimes.
Improving correction and development programmes within DCS to ensure enhanced facilitation of rehabilitation that targets offending behaviour.
Encouraging improvement of first and second levels of correction in family and social institutions and social and economic sector government departments respectively to decrease rate of entry into criminal justice system, and
Encouraging community involvement in social reintegration of offenders back into their community in order to assist in reducing levels of repeat offending.