Prisoners to help plug skills gap

Johannesburg - More than 9000 inmates have been trained as artisans, in efforts to address the country's critical skills shortage, correctional services said on Sunday.

“In 2012/13...a total of 9403 inmates received training in welding, electrical, plumbing, building, carpentry, painting, tiling and chef assistance,” the department said in a statement.

“In addition to the (department's) budget from April 2012 to March 2014, approximately R50 million was spent from the National Skills Fund to train offenders in welding, plumbing, bricklaying, plastering, electrical, carpentry and agricultural skills programmes.”

Minister Sibusiso Ndebele believed improving the skills of convicts would help rehabilitate them.

The department said a report released in March showed that 25 percent of sentenced offenders were young people.

At least 95 percent of them would return to society after serving their sentence.

“Children as young as 17... have committed serious crimes. The average inmate is a young substance abuser who has dropped out of school before high school and is functionally illiterate and more often than not, homeless.”

The department said the figures justified its focus on prisoner rehabilitation. - Sapa