The Department of Correctional Services’s transformation programme has allowed prisons to evolve from institutions of humiliation to institutions of new beginnings, says Sibusiso Ndebele.
Johannesburg - The article “‘Correctional’ is a misnomer” by Kyla Herrmannsen in The Star (SEE RELATED ARTICLES ABOVE) on March 12 refers.
The transformation programme of our democratic government necessitated that prisons shift from institutions of humiliation to institutions of new beginnings.
In South Africa, the Department of Correctional Services (DCS) is currently responsible for 221 240 offenders, comprising 158 000 inmates in custody and 63 240 offenders under community supervision.
Offenders sentenced to life imprisonment increased from about 400 in 1994 to more than 12 500 in 2014.
According to the National Offender Population Profile report, the major crime categories are economic, aggressive, sexual and narcotics.
More than one third of those incarcerated are youth, and a large number of inmates older than 25 years are still in the prime of their life.
Children as young as 17 years of age have committed serious crimes. The average inmate is a young substance abuser who has dropped out of school before high school, is functionally illiterate and, more often than not, homeless.
When parents, the extended family, the Sunday school teacher, the school teacher, the university professor and everyone else have failed, the DCS steps in to remould the offender’s character and improve their skills so that they return to society with enhanced prospects of success.
At least 95 percent of those incarcerated will return to society after serving their sentence.
We are turning our correctional centres into centres of learning. We are making sure that offenders read, study and work and that, upon release, they are in possession of, at least, a certificate in one hand and a skill in the other.
To this end, the DCS increased the number of full-time correctional centre schools from one in 2009 to 12 in 2013. This year, three additional schools are scheduled for accreditation including the Rustenburg, Boksburg and Ekuseni youth centres.
Last year, we announced that, as from April 1, 2013, it would be compulsory for every inmate, without a qualification equivalent to Grade 9, to complete Adult Education and Training level 1 to 4. Between April and September 2013, 11 649 inmates registered for the programmes. From 2010 to 2013, 73 881 inmates participated in education programmes.
From 2012 to 2013, 559 inmates wrote Grade 9 to 11 examinations, with an average pass rate of 73 percent in 2013. The number of inmates who wrote Grade 12 exams doubled, and those who gained university admission increased.
In last year’s Grade 12 examinations, inmates achieved 60 subject distinctions. Trynos Mohlanga achieved 100 percent in business studies and another offender, Celumusa Mhlongo, achieved 90 percent in history.
Umlatati Learning Centre, at the Barberton Youth Centre in Mpumalanga, achieved a 100 percent pass rate despite the fact that offenders were only enrolled in matric there at the beginning of last year.
Between 2012 and 2013, 1 049 offenders studied towards post-matric/higher education and training qualifications, 3 525 towards further education and training college programmes and 4 188 towards skills development programmes. During 2012, R66.424 million was spent on training 5 837 offenders including scarce skills such as welding, plumbing, bricklaying, plastering, electrical, carpentry and agricultural skills programmes. A further 416 youth offenders attained International Computer Driver Licences.
On May 27 last year, we launched the Western Cape Arts and Craft Gallery at the Goodwood Correctional Centre for offenders to express their creativity. The Gallery of Hope is enabling offenders to sell their art to the public, support their families and have money when released. Furthermore, this gallery will be used as an after-care centre for released offenders to make reintegration into society much easier and better.
As the DCS, we will continue to deliver justice for victims and ensure that offenders make restitution to society for their crimes and leave correctional centres with better skills, and prospects, which will result in a second chance towards becoming ideal citizens.
However, corrections is not the sole responsibility of DCS – it is a responsibility shared with society.
* Sibusiso Ndebele is the Minister of Correctional Services.
** The views expressed here are not necessarily those of Independent Newspapers.