SA to learn from Brazil prisons

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Pretoria - Brazil has committed to forging closer ties with South Africa on correctional matters, and a high-level technical team has been invited to Brasilia to take matters forward.

Correctional Services Minister Sibusiso Ndebele on Wednesday held a meeting with the Director-General Augusto Eduardo de Souza Rossini and senior officials of the national Penitentiary Department at the Office of the Ministry of Justice in Brasilia.

The main focus of their meeting was their "Absolution of Time Through Reading" and "Absolution of Time Through Labour" programmes.

In Brazil, prisons are offering an interesting option to select prisoners for read and write essays on works of literature, philosophy and science to reduce sentences by four days for every book completed.

Prisoners have one month to read each book and write book reports that must "make use of paragraphs, be free of corrections, use margins and legible joined-up writing".

The programme allows avid readers to shave up to 48 days off their sentence every year. Statistics, and analysis, show some strong links between literacy and crime levels.

Brazil, with 514 582 inmates, currently ranks fourth in the world in terms of inmate population.

The cost per inmate is approximately one thousand US dollars per month. In terms of education for inmates, Brazil is investing three hundred million US dollars from 2012 to 2014.

There is a partnership between the Ministry of Justice under which the Correctional Services (Penitentiary Department) portfolio falls, and the Ministries of Education and Health with regards to the implementation of a national Education and Health plan for inmates.

Brazil also has 1 050 Community Councils, in various states, which play a key role in the integration of offenders into society.

Later today, Minister Ndebele will depart for Sao Paulo where he is scheduled to engage with other officials on various correctional matters.

Following his arrival in Brasilia on Monday, on Tuesday Minister Ndebele met with Ambassador Mphakama Mbete, and senior officials, at the South African Embassy, Brazil where he was briefed on bilateral relations in the correctional sector between South Africa and Brazil.

Minister Ndebele, supported by Correctional Services National Commissioner Tom Moyane, is currently on a tour to Brazil, Cuba and New York to study, and observe the various issues pertaining to the correctional services portfolio that will provide a broad understanding of conceptual and organizational operations of the correctional service resulting in the consolidation of best-practice models for South Africa.