New prison opened in Estcourt
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Minister of Justice and Correctional Services Michael Masutha said the government was doing what it could to improve the conditions under which inmates were held.
“Correctional Services has a mandate to create a humane system, where the weakest inmates feel safe, where all are treated with respect, where all inmates are meaningfully occupied and expected to improve themselves, where inmates can strengthen links with their families and prepare for release,” said Masutha.
Masutha added that correctional officials also needed to be provided with a safe working environment.
The previous prison in Estcourt, according to the department, was a corrugated-iron structure, with bed space for 203 offenders, which was demolished to make way for the new correctional centre.
The new prison consists of two units, with a capacity to accommodate 512 inmates.
It also has a hospital section, training centre, maintenance workshop, logistics and other support structures.
“There is also a state-of-the-art residential facility for officials,” he said.
Masutha added that the extra bed spaces created would help bring down occupation levels in centres and alleviate overcrowding.
“The occupation levels of sentenced and awaiting-trial offenders in KwaZulu-Natal alone, stand at 131.05% as of April 1, 2019, in terms of the report from the National Overcrowding Task Team,” he said.
He said the construction of the centre created 361 job opportunities, including the training of 35 students, as part of a government programme, in bricklaying, plumbing, carpentry and painting.
“Out of these, 20 students were employed by the contractor after completing their training,” said Masutha.
Masutha said the facility’s training centre would equip offenders with the necessary skills to become employable and productive citizens.