The Police and Prisons Civil Rights Union (POPCRU) is saddened by the unfortunate but avoidable situation that took place at the St Albans Correctional Centre where 3 people lost their lives, with 26 others, composed by correctional officials and inmates, seriously injured yesterday morning.
This is but a recurring trend which follows a similar incident that took place at the Leeuwkop Correctional Centre where inmates were involved in a violent scuffle with correctional officials and the Johannesburg Correctional Centre (Sun City), where 5 correctional officials were attacked and stabbed when intervening to halt a gang-related altercation.
We are irate over the lack of putting into practice the necessary measures aimed at ensuring the core function of rehabilitating inmates is fully undertaken and the insurance of a safe working environment for correctional officials.
Correctional officials have been at the receiving end of all these challenges due to the fact that the Department of Correctional Services (DCS) simply chooses to ignore their plight, whilst focused on the privatisation of correctional centres and the tenderisation of most services it provides.
The current shift system, coupled by the long-standing understaffing and overcrowding has been at the centre of this debacle, with gangs taking opportune moments to foster lawlessness in these centres while being fully aware of the limited figures of correctional officials on duty at any given time. In this shift pattern, there are two shifts with half of the staff at home while the other is at work at any given time, while nationally, the 2 DCS training colleges can only accommodate 1000 trainees per year, simply indicating that, provided no measures are taken, the understaffing challenge will not be addressed in the near future cause of the growing prison population, therefore compromising the much-needed rehabilitation process.
With a prison population of just over 160 000 having to be services by 26 000 prison officials, the safety of these officials is highly compromised and morale is low at the face of a growing prison population representing the 11th highest prisoner population in the world in terms of sheer numbers, giving an occupancy rate of 133%.
These calamities continue to limit prospects for proper implementation of effective programmes of rehabilitation as officials are simply unable to deliver comprehensive programmes due to overcrowded facilities coupled with inadequate human resources.
Recent studies have shown that over 80% of inmates reoffend after their release, therefore signalling that they should not remain indolent in correctional facilities, but do consistent work that will ensure these facilities become self-sufficient. They must contribute towards the running costs and decent up-keeping of these centres as this will contribute towards their rehabilitation and skills development, while similarly saving taxpayers’ monies that could be utilised to address other pressing national priorities like education for our youth.
Correctional Centres 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 on costs. The training and development in the workshops should be reignited to address the idling that is 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.
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.
We call for a uniformed shift system across all correctional centres. We need proper strategies to deal away with gangsterim within correctional facilities, and that can only be achieved by employing proper rehabilitation processes, and not through the installation of surveillance facilities which amount to billions of rands. The DCS needs to focus on its core business of rehabilitating inmates in a conducive environment.
Issued by POPCRU on 27/12/2016