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South African inmates produce own food, revamp houses and clean up communities following July unrest

File image from a feature at Pollsmoor Prison on rehabilitation - Here inmates in the metal room making cups which are supplied to all the prisons in South Africa. Picture by Brenton Geach

File image from a feature at Pollsmoor Prison on rehabilitation - Here inmates in the metal room making cups which are supplied to all the prisons in South Africa. Picture by Brenton Geach

Published Nov 9, 2021


Offenders incarcerated in South African prisons have been put to work through the Ministry of Justice and Correctional Services’ Self-Sufficiency Model.

Minister Ronald Lamola revealed that by utilising offender labour, the department has managed to produce food for inmates’ rations and generate revenue from its production workshops.

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The department is no longer procuring eggs and pork for all correctional centres across the country, as these are now internally farmed and produced by inmates.

Lamola also revealed that when the dire conditions in which the child headed Zungu family in KwaMadondo, Weenen, Kwa-Zulu Natal, were living were exposed, offender labour was utilized to transform the family’s dilapidated house into a decent fully furnished house.

The inmates also stepped in when acts of vandalism, rampant looting and destruction of properties in Gauteng and Kwa-Zulu Natal erupted.

Lamola said probationers and parolees helped to clean-up most affected areas to allow economic activity to resume.

They also used their skills when some of the schools in Mpumalanga, Gauteng and the Eastern Cape did not have adequate school desks. He said offender labour was utilized to refurbish desks and chairs.

“I am just highlighting this to demonstrate that inmates and parolees can be used for community empowerment projects,” he said.

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Lamola was presenting the political overview on Annual Reports for the Department of Justice and Constitutional Development, Correctional Services and Office of the Chief Justice, covering the 2020-21 Financial Year on Tuesday.

He reported that in the last financial year, offenders were trained in hairdressing, new venture creations, building and plastering, tiling, welding, painting, furniture and cabinet making, wood machining, textile skills, bricklaying, motor mechanics, plumbing, vegetable production and other agriculture related fields.

“Our training and rehabilitation programmes have made a significant impact on the lives of former inmates and offered them new and exciting opportunities,” he said.

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Recently, former inmate, Morwesi Theledi, who spent six years incarcerated, joined the cast of popular SABC soapie, Muvhango, he said.

Lamola said she discovered her passion and talent for acting while incarcerated and she has, in her words, described her incarceration as a blessing in disguise.

“I mentioned this example to demonstrate that inmates are not just warehoused at our centres, lots of work continues behind the walls. We have various programmes aimed at rehabilitating offending behaviour in inmates and providing them with new opportunities.

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“It is unfortunate that a few offenders who are on parole stain the good work that is done on inmates in our centres. Our approach in correctional services is in line with the United Nations’ Office on Drugs and Crime which highlights the importance of measures to support the rehabilitation and social reintegration of inmates into the community,” Lamola added.

He said that incarceration on its own cannot deter criminal behaviour and it was against this background that the department develops inmates’ skills to bolster their chances of employability upon their release.

“We have met with the Department of Education, and we will work together to address some of the infrastructure challenges in schools utilizing offender labour. We also want to see offenders utilized for minor maintenance work on public infrastructure.

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Political Bureau