The Police and Prisons Civil Rights Union has noted and welcomes the appointment of Mr Makgothi Samuel Thobakgale as the acting National Commissioner of the Department of Correctional Services (DCS).
The appointment of Mr Thobakgale takes place at a critical time wherein, 27 years into our democratic dispensation, the DCS faces multiple upheavals, including being perforated with challenges ranging from overcrowding and understaffing, ailing infrastructure, the lack of resources to appropriately meet its increasing demands, the full implementation of the Occupation Specific Dispensation (OSD), the development and implementation of a lawful shift pattern, the development of a promotion policy, provision of uniforms for its staff and the adoption and implementation of its service delivery model among others.
It was back in 1998 when the DCS made a paradigm shift from being a purely punitive institution to becoming rehabilitative; however, these obstacles have in many ways seen it deviate from implementing its core task, which is to ensure rehabilitation over the years.
Having a total number of 243 operational centres with a bed capacity of 118 572, while housing approximately 138 070 inmates, our correctional centres have a staff complement of 34 000, with 12 000 performing administrative work.
Beyond this, approximately 85% of inmates in our country re-offend after their release, meaning the current system of rehabilitation needs to be redefined because as is the current situation, our centres are far from being conducive to fulfilling the rehabilitating requirements. This is partly due to limited technical and life skills inmates are getting, therefore making it difficult to survive outside the prison environment, and has been a source of increased crime.
Our Correctional centres also continue being high-risk environments, particularly in that the department cannot maintain adequate standards of health and safety, proper sanitation and other health and safety protocols as prescribed by the World Health Organisation (WHO), and with the current Covid-19 pandemic, the situation has worsened.
We reiterate our call that, in addressing some of the pertinent challenges facing our correctional centres, they should be self-sufficient insofar as food production through farming, the production of offender uniforms, furniture and the general maintenance and repairs as this will not only cut down on costs incurred and reduce the levels of criminal activities common within prisons, but will also skill inmates even beyond incarceration.
Time spent in incarceration must never be about inmates being idle and just lazing around for twenty-four hours on every day of their term of imprisonment. All inmates must contribute towards the running costs and decent up-keeping of all correctional centres.
As a union, we stress the need to have a capable, efficient and ethical officials who can optimally meet the needs of the department, to ensure the most efficient allocation of public resources, and the need to reprioritise the department back to its core function.
This new era brings about an opportune moment to jointly remedy past trends, and we are confident that the new appointment, working together with stakeholders, can bring about the much needed stability needed within the criminal justice cluster.
Issued by POPCRU on 28/09/2021
For more information contact Richard Mamabolo on 066 135 4349