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The victims of crime should be at the centre of the correctional services system, Correctional Services Minister Sibusiso Ndebele said on Thursday.
“The objective of... victim-offender dialogues is to put the victim back at the centre of the corrections system, as the victim is directly, and personally, affected by the criminal act of the offender,” he said in a speech prepared for delivery in KwaZulu-Natal.
“Equally, the offender must be given an opportunity to reflect on his or her wrongs and request forgiveness.”
He said the victim-offender dialogues would try to keep people away from imprisonment by encouraging the reconstruction of the family unit, and through community involvement.
“The family unit is recognised as the basic building block of any healthy, and prosperous, community and nation,” he said.
Ndebele said most of the country's offenders came from communities and families which were plagued by poverty, hunger, unemployment and absent figures of authority.
Social institutions and individuals, such as teachers, religious leaders, sports role models and cultural leaders were often required to fulfil the role of a parent in shaping children's lifestyles.
“Correction is therefore not just the duty of a particular department. It is the responsibility of all social institutions, individuals and a range of government departments,” Ndebele said.
“It is only at that final point, at which the society has failed an individual, where the criminal justice system and the department of correctional services steps in.”
He said that with the dialogues, offenders would recognise their wrong actions, accept responsibility for and deal with instances where they themselves had been victims to encourage forgiveness.
“The department recognises the restoration of relations between offenders and victims of crimes as vital for the prevention of recidivism.” - Sapa