Large number of juveniles in SA prison system a cause for concern
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Cape Town - While South Africans commemorated the youth of 1976 which sparked a revolution, many youngsters charged with violent crimes are still incarcerated in government facilities, according to the Judicial Inspectorate Correctional Services (Jics).
The inspectorate says it is devising plans to keep at-risk youth off the streets and out of correctional facilities where an increasing number of them are being held while awaiting trial.
This after Jics issued statistics stating that as of May 31, there were 55 children in remand detention, 3 105 juveniles awaiting trial, 42 children sentenced and 1 503 juveniles sentenced.
Jics spokesperson Emerantia Cupido said between 2019 and 2020 there were 2 058 sentenced juveniles and 3 724 remand juveniles, 65 sentenced children and 58 remand children.
She said in the 2018-2019 financial year, there were 6 120 juveniles and 182 children incarcerated.
“If we cannot stop the underlying and complex causes of crime, we at Jics advocate for humane conditions of detention and incarceration to provide meaningful opportunities for rehabilitation,” Cupido said.
She said time behind bars could be used productively, particularly for children and juveniles. “To do so, we must ensure there is education (junior, primary and tertiary), books, skills training, exercise and psychological and social support.”
Cupido said if correctional centres created “breeding grounds for rehabilitation”, they could reduce recidivism among youth, potentially curb crime, and the youth could rejoin society as caring and productive people.
“Critically, rehabilitation must be coupled with restorative justice, repairing relationships between incarcerated persons, victims and the community. The key to this is tackling the stigma and shame associated with criminality. That requires you and me to stop labelling,” she said.
She said everyone deserved a second chance, especially the youth.
SA Sentenced and Awaiting Trial Prisoners’ Organisation (Sasapo) chairperson Phindile Zweni said the organisation had secured funding to support parolees, probationers and ex-offenders to curb the high volume of recidivism of released offenders.
Zweni said they were in talks and had submitted an application to “support with skills development programmes the Education Department for employment or self employment for some”. He said the initiative would go a long way in alleviating the reoffending of released offenders.
According to a communication between Sasapo and the Department of Basic Education, the department may support parolees younger than 18 who might go back to school full-time.
The department’s director for the Second Chance Matric Support Programme, Dr Sandy Malapile, said those 18 and older could register to write matric exams part-time, and those who needed to rewrite matric could be assisted through Second Chance.
Justice and Correctional Services Minister Ronald Lamola’s spokesperson, Chrispin Phiri, said the department had a formal education directorate. Phiri said it was responsible for providing administrative support, study guidance, counselling and other study support to awaiting-trial detainees, parolees and probationers.
He said that during reintegration, the official in charge of education linked the probationer with the community learning centres where practicable.
Phiri said for children of schoolgoing age it was compulsory to attend school, and education opportunities should be provided to those 15 years and younger sentenced to imprisonment.
He said learning methodologies that met the needs of those children and contributed to their personal growth were used in correctional centres. Phiri said the department also offered computer-based learning.
“The establishment of computer-based learning centres is to provide learners with a secure environment to utilise technology for study purposes, to train offenders to become computer literate as well as to use the centre within a multimedia approach to train students in relevant courseware packages or applications,” he said.