By: Nthambeleni Gabara
Pretoria: Correctional Services Minister Sibusiso Ndebele says addressing overcrowding in correctional centres throughout the country is a priority for the department.
South Africa is currently ranked number one in Africa – and 9th in the world – in terms of prison population, with approximately 160 000 inmates. Of this, about 30 percent constitute awaiting-trial detainees.
“Since my appointment, overcrowding in correctional centres [has been] one of our key priorities. The department hosted a colloquium on overcrowding, alternative sentencing and the white paper on remand detention on 19 and 20 November 2012, which was attended by all relevant stakeholders, including representatives from the judiciary.
Ndebele said the recommendations of the colloquium were currently being considered for implementation.
“Our offender population has remained constant. Whether you remove pass laws, group areas or apartheid laws, it should make us search more urgently for answers to the high prison population in South Africa,” he said.
He was speaking on Monday during a meeting with the senior leadership of the Police and Prisons Civil Rights Union (POPCRU) and the Public Servants Association of South Africa (PSA) in Tshwane.
The minister said Correctional Services was the last hope for victims of crime, and for many of the individuals sentenced for crime.
“All offenders, except lifers considered inappropriate for parole, will return to society at the end of their sentences.”