The Police and Prisons Civil Rights Union (POPCRU) has noted a report by the United Nations Human Rights Committee on the conditions of South African prisons, and we still maintain that overcrowding and understaffing in prisons remain and create a challenge both on ablution facilities, the rising levels of violence among inmates and in ensuring the very objective of rehabilitating inmates, with a view of reintegrating them back into society.
Various studies indicate that approximately 85% to 94% of prisoners in South Africa re-offend after their release, which means the current system of rehabilitation needs to urgently be redefined because in the current, our prisons are far from being conducive to fulfilling the rehabilitation process needed.
The gruesome approach of Private-Public-Partnerships (PPPs) has also demonstrated to consume most of the Department’s budget, and we are of the view that this approach was misapplied, which has negatively impacted on the level of skills that that offenders were acquiring before its introduction.
Due to very little technical and life skills of the inmates, survival outside of the prison environment becomes very difficult and many tend to re-offend because in their view life is easier in prison. This is counter-productive to the fight against crime and corruption
There is currently a huge expenditure on the Department of Correctional Services’ (DCS) budget, and we are of the firm view that prisons should be self-sufficient insofar as food production through farming, the production of offender uniforms, furniture, both steel and wood as well as inmates’ beds and lockers, the general maintenance and repairs, etc. Most farm prisons like Baviaanspoort and Zonderwater in Gauteng including others in Mpumalanga, Eastern Cape, KwaZulu Natal and Western Cape have land which should be utilised for food production as this will cut down of costs. The training and development in the workshops should be reignited to address the idling currently underway.
Inmates should equally be integrated into rural development projects that will assist with our national developmental goals as a way of paying back to the communities they have wronged, instead of being spoon-fed through taxpayers’ moneys while remaining idle.
Our view on this matter is that inmates’ employment within the facility will contribute towards their rehabilitation, self-worth, dignity and skills development, all characteristics so vital towards the eventual successful reintegration into society. This will also reduce the levels of criminal activities common within prisons.
For the DCS department to simply suggest that R2,6-billion would be spent over the next three years in attempting to deal with these challenges falls short of addressing the long-term stability of this department, and in turn remains a waste of taxpayers’ funds.
We believe that time spent in incarceration must never be about inmates being idle and just lazying around for twenty-four hours a day everyday of their term of imprisonment. All inmates must contribute towards the running costs and decent up-keeping of all Correctional Centres. They can no longer be warehouses where people are stored until their release dates.
Issued by POPCRU on 11/04/2016