DCS to train staff on inmate rights

Monday, July 22, 2019

The Department of Correctional Services (DCS) will begin training staff on the effective treatment of prisoners incarcerated in its various facilities. 

This comes after the department on Monday handed over the Nelson Mandela Rules training manual to regions during a brief ceremony at the Kgosi Mampuru II Correctional Centre in Tshwane. 

The rules are aimed at promoting humane conditions of incarceration, raise awareness about inmates being part of society and to value the work done by correctional officials in rehabilitating offenders.

The rules, which were approved Cabinet in March last year, are a set of universally acknowledged minimum standards for the treatment of prisoners, to which member states of the United Nations committed themselves in December 2018.

Following last year’s launch, government appointed a task team to align the rules with government policy and legislation.

“We did an audit as a team from the Criminal Justice System. The results are in this document, [with] the implementation framework. There were a few gaps that we picked up that needed some closure. We discussed with the team and we started to communicate on how to improve,” said Vuyi Mlomo-Ndlovu, the acting Chief Deputy Commissioner for Remand Operations Management.

The rules cover, among others, the detention of inmates; health services provision; disciplinary measures and management of death. 

“All deaths must be investigated. They should be reported to an independent authority…” Mlomo-Ndlovu said. 

The rules also call for a dual inspection of facilities which, Mlomo-Ndlovu said was already the case in South Africa. 

“The inspections are done by our inspectors... In South Africa, we allow judges to visit prisons [where] they can even interview inmates. They can visit any section of the prison, but the [Correctional Services] Act does not say the judges must give reports.

“[However], the judges do give us reports. Those reports reflect similar challenges experienced by Correctional Services, [chief among] which is overcrowding.”

Another element raised in the rules relate to torture. Mlomo-Ndlovu said the department legislatively does not have avenues that investigate alleged instances of torture. She stressed that this was a correctional services gap that needed to be closed.

Linda Bond, the Deputy Commissioner for Human Resources Development at Correctional Services, said the department is committed to implementing the rules training, saying the training would be embedded in the workplace skills plan as a standard requirement for new recruits and as part of refresher training on the human framework.

Mlomo-Ndlovu said the training would also assist in the identification of gaps and challenges in the implementation of the rules. – SAnews.gov.za