Correctional Services: Behind closed doors

Wednesday, October 31, 2018

Behind bars, some inmates are hard at work to change their lives and make a difference in society.

During a media tour on Tuesday, journalists were taken to various sections of the Leeuwkop prison near Sandton, Johannesburg, which includes workshops and the prison hospital section.

At the workshops, some of the inmates were hard at work manufacturing furniture while others were busy in the piggery and in agricultural production.

According to the officials, the inmates at the workshops were trained while serving their sentences. This is to enable them to be employed or start their own businesses upon their release.

During the walkabout, the media was also taken to the cells to see the living arrangements of the inmates there. Other inmates were busy writing their examinations while others were playing soccer outside.

Correct offending behaviour

According to the Department of Correctional Services, correctional centres are not to punish offenders but to correct offending behaviour and rehabilitate inmates so they can return to society as law-abiding citizens.

The tour was organised to enable members of the media to have a better understanding of what is happening inside correctional centres.

According to the Victims of Crime Survey 2017/18, released earlier this month, an estimated 50% of households were satisfied with the way Correctional Services rehabilitates criminals.

The department says it is rolling out a number of skills development programmes aimed at addressing the socio-historic, and economic, challenges which are the root cause of crime in the country.

Agriculture, education and training

Agriculture has been identified as one of the niche markets in South Africa, and the department has decided to intensify training in this area.

“We are now equipping many inmates with agricultural skills and training in the cultivation of vegetables, meat, chicken, fruit and milk production. It is exciting to note that an increasing number of inmates are opting for agriculture as a career of choice and currently 3 307 offenders are participating daily in agricultural activities,” said department spokesperson Singabakho Nxumalo during the media tour.

According to Nxumalo, there is a demand for formal education and training programmes as over 10 996 inmates accessed adult education and training.  

“There is much more we can say about the good happening in our 243 correctional centres across the country,” Nxumalo said.

Overcrowding

Nxumalo said they are concerned about overcrowding and that they are and under-staffed.

“We are currently overcrowded by 38%. To be precise, our approved bed space is 118 723, yet the inmate population is 164 129. Correctional facilities in the metropolitan cities are the worse affected, especially remand detention centres,” he said, adding that they have ended the 2017/18 financial year with 46 260 awaiting-trial persons.

With regard to addressing overcrowding, Nxumalo said they are implementing a multi-pronged strategy to manage overcrowding.

“Our focus is on managing levels of remand detainees, consideration of sentenced offenders for parole or correctional supervision, evenly spreading offenders, advocating for non-custodial sanctions/alternatives to imprisonment and optimal use of correctional supervision,” Nxumalo said.

Corruption

Nxumalo said the use of cellphones inside correctional centres continues to be a challenge as these gadgets are used to make threats, plan escapes and in the orchestration of illegal activities.

According to Nxumalo, progress is being made in the fight against corruption.  

“We fight fraud and corruption with vigour. The objective is to root out criminal behaviour amongst those who taint our standing and reputation in society. We refuse to allow a few rotten apples to reverse the gains we have achieved,” Nxumalo said.

A total of 128 staff members were dismissed from the department due to misconduct.

Throughout the country, there are 243 Correctional Centres. In total, there are 164 129 inmates behind bars. – SAnews.gov.za 

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