Correctional facilities can produce educated, skilled ex-offenders

Monday, January 23, 2023

Justice and Correctional Services Minister Ronald Lamola says correctional centres can become a hub for education and skills development for all inmates.

The Minister was speaking during the release of inmates' matric results for the 2022 academic year in a ceremony held at St Albans Correctional Centre in the Eastern Cape.

The class of 2022, both part time and full time, scored a combined 85.5% pass rate this year – up by some 10.5% compared to 2021.

“[All] the sentenced inmates must take part in education, training and skill acquiring initiatives. This will be in line with our efforts of striving towards access to education for all. We don’t have to accept a situation where inmates will refuse to be trained by proclaiming that they have a right not to participate in education.

“Let the doors of learning be opened and every inmate must be made to strive to acquire education, and move from a sense of hopelessness to a sense of saying 'with education, I will be an upright citizen and my full potential will be unleashed.'

“All our centres must not only support learning, but they should promote it,” he said.

The Minister emphasised that inmates who receive education stand to better the communities they are released into and this can restore “inmates’ self-esteem and social competence”.

“A bright future becomes more tangible if [inmates] pursue education as a form of rehabilitation. Upon returning back to society, they become different people.

“Education in correctional centres has long term benefits for the country, ex-offenders with no or little education have lower prospects of finding gainful employment and they resort to crime as they cannot overcome the myriad of barriers they have to contend with,” he said.

Lamola urged society to refrain from “discriminating against ex-offenders and denying them opportunities in areas and trades where they are best candidates”.

Every year, the department trains inmates in skills such as plumbing, tiling, brick laying and mechanics to provide them with a skill to take into the world once they leave correctional facilities.

“Whilst we understand that employers can use their discretion when hiring people based on an objective and just criteria, we must also remember that there is no law which says we should not employ people on account of a criminal record. 

“Former inmates, be upfront in your applications for jobs, state that you are someone who previously wronged the community, but show that correctional services has reformed you.

“In the same breath, those who reluctantly give opportunities to our ex-offenders to offer their labour, we say, don’t under pay them, the law has already punished them, so don’t further punish them. They deserve the same treatment as everyone else in society,” he said.

Turning to those who passed matric in the correctional services system in 2022, Lamola congratulated them for their hard work and dedication.

“I want to take this opportunity and congratulate all learners who excelled in their results. You worked hard, and you will serve as a great motivator for the 2023 class who we are hopeful will surpass your achievements.

“Your journey for education continues. We hope you will further your studies. Those who could not make it - try harder this year and you will eventually succeed,” the minister said. –