Minister concerned at number of youth behind bars

Wednesday, September 23, 2009
By: 
Edwin Tshivhidzo

North West - Correctional Services Deputy Minister Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula on Tuesday expressed concern at the number of young offenders, aged between 19 and 25, in the country's correctional facilities.

"As correctional services, we are greatly disturbed by the number of young offenders in our facilities. We are equally concerned by the nature of crimes they have committed. The majority ... are in the aggressive crime category, followed by economic crimes," said the minister.

According to statistics released in August, there are 23 674 sentenced male offenders and 33 946 unsentenced offenders. "It is very worrying that we have a grand total of 55 172 young people, our hope for the future, behind the bars. In this region, we have a total of 5263 young people in our correctional facilities," said Mapisa-Nqakula.

She appealed to the youth to make use of the opportunities for rehabilitation provided by the department in partnership with the various civil society formations and sister departments, like Social Development, Education, and the police.

The department had developed the Offender Rehabilitation Path, which explains what happens to the offender from the point of entering the Correctional Centre to the point when the person is released and reintegrated into society. These stages include assessment and profiling; admission into a housing unit; intervention; monitoring and evaluation; placement; allocation to pre-release unit; pre-admission and release.

The minister explained: "The assessment and profiling stage is crucial as it informs the interventions needed to address the specific needs of the offender through what is called the Correctional Sentence Plan. The analysis of information gathered through assessment of needs and risks informs the profile of each offender and assists us to plan unique interventions for each offender rather than putting them in one basket."

A message the minister wanted to convey to the young offenders was that as much as the department tried to improve their situation by preparing them for a second chance, "you are the captains of your ship. You are the ones who have the choice and the power to decide what becomes of you. It is only when you choose to get out of here as newly designed persons that your lives can change for the better. And on this, make no mistake, you are not doing your parents or close ones any favour".

She urged the youths to live in such a way that they will be remembered for the contribution they have made in society.

Mapisa-Nqakula was speaking on Tuesday at the Basha Arts Porgramme for youth in conflict with the law.