DURBAN, August 21 (ANA) – The department of correctional services (DCS) is celebrating 28 years of its community corrections programme by repositioning the project to increase its contribution to economic growth in communities at a district level, using parolees and probationers.
A national indaba was held at the Westville Correctional Centre on Wednesday, where the repositioning came under discussion by prison officials from all districts in the country.
A media briefing was held during a break in the indaba, where Willie Pienaar, who works within the programme at a national level, said the point of the project was “to grow the community corrections system to have international best practice and a leaner incarcerated offender population and have a bigger community corrections system”.
The programme was introduced in South Africa in 1991 as a non-custodial sentencing option where offenders serve their sentences within communities.
Pienaar said that two streams of offenders were utilised in the programme – probationers and parolees.
“Probationers are those who are sentenced by the court directly to a community-based centre for correctional supervision, meaning that person is not sent to a correctional centre. They report to the community corrections office within the area where they live.
“Parolees are those who serve the remainder of their sentence in the community. After completing a certain portion of the sentence, the person is placed out on parole and they can be admitted into the system of community corrections,” said Pienaar.
He said the programme managed 71,421 parolees and probationers nationwide. In 1994, those in the programme numbered 21,293.
Offenders who were yet to be sentenced also fell under the programme, he said.
“In terms of the numbers, of the 71,421, we have a fallout of approximately one percent whose parole or correctional supervision is revoked annually, and we have been tracking progress over the past couple of years,” said Pienaar.
According to DCS national deputy commissioner for social reintegration, Veliswa Mvandaba, community corrections was a window through which communities could judge the success of rehabilitation programmes.
“DCS maintains that corrections are a societal responsibility and therefore we call upon communities to play a meaningful role in this challenging task of social reintegration. This task can only be achieved by a collaborative partnership with communities,” she said.
Azwihangwisi Nesengani, who is DCS national director for after care, said community corrections had various programmes that included restorative justice and victim offender dialogues.
"Those programmes are geared towards creating an environment conducive to the reintegration of these offenders. They are also geared towards curbing the reoffending. We have various partners that are dealing with these issues in relation to employability, which is another programme that we have."
"Entrepreneurship is a basic programme that we are working on with the department of trade and industry and the department of small businesses.
We also have our own programmes that are conducted by parolees and probationers as part of restoration of relationships for the harm caused and reparation for relationships affected," said Nesengani.