Budget Vote speech by Correctional Services Deputy Minister, Honourable Loretta Jacobus
Minister of Correctional Services Mr Ngconde Balfour
Members of Cabinet
The Acting Inspecting Judge, Judge Deon Van Zyl
Chairperson of the National Council on Correctional Service
National Commissioner of Correctional Services Mr Vernie Petersen and your executive management team
Honoured and special guests
Honourable members of Parliament
Correctional Services Ambassadors of Excellence
Our valued stakeholders and partners
Our personnel and officials from Department of Correctional Service
Ladies and gentlemen
This month, we are celebrating the immeasurable contribution of young people to the attainment of a free and democratic South Africa. Some of the young people who contributed to the birth of this new nation are occupying key strategic positions in this house and right across our nation. The category I am talking about had a noble mission and clarity of purpose to spare no effort in freeing our people from repression.
Our historic mission today is to create an environment where today's youth can also make the best use of the foundation laid by the 20th century young generations. We must address challenges that face families, communities and the broader society. These contribute to increasing numbers of children and young people who commit crime and loose their youth languishing in correctional centres.
This reality facing our country demands that correctional services must along side improving security, emphasise rehabilitation and development programmes aimed at turning these young people languishing in our correctional facilities into socially responsible and productive citizens. Our country's future lies in their hands and a majority will still return to society with lots of energy that must be channelled appropriately for constructive engagement and development. Strengthening the capacity of correctional services to deliver on its core mandate is an integral part of government's priority of consolidating and advancing the fight against crime. As announced by the President in his State of The Nation Address earlier this year, these priorities include among others the revamping of the criminal justice system to intensify our offensive against crime.
The Minister gave a focused report on our highlights from 2004 to date. I am pleased to add that we have indeed done much to implement government's undertaking to build a safer and a more secure society. However, with the quality of personnel we have I am confident that we will sustain the improvements we are making in correctional services delivery, particularly in areas of development, rehabilitation and care for offenders.
Improved offender development interventions
The White Paper implores us to intervene in ways that could turn an offender into a socially responsible and law-abiding citizen who builds instead of harming society.
As a result, we have established a number of strategic and sustainable partnerships with other government departments and civil society organisations. For example, the Department of Correctional Service and the President's Award for Youth Empowerment Programme are currently engaged in skills training initiatives involving over 2000 inmates from 65 correctional centres around the country. We have intensified levels of offender participation in various programmes which include sport, arts, culture and agriculture.
I believe honourable members that providing Adult Basic Education (ABET) to tens of thousands of illiterate offenders in our care will go a long way towards eliminating crimes associated with pure survival and in reducing re-offending of this category of offenders. With the limitations we have, we have reached over 11 800 offenders last year at a cost of R17 million and we have identified this area as very critical. The department has endorsed ABET as one of the three key service delivery improvement projects to invest in, with at least R20 million set aside for this financial year. We are also partnering with the Department of Education and the National Youth Service Unit (NYSU) to augment our current capacity.
We have made good progress in increasing mass participation of offender in sport, recreation, arts and culture. The activities and programmes undertaken during the year include:
* National Choir Festival ran in collaboration with the SABC as part of the World Aids Day celebrations in Cape Town
* National Football and Netball championships at Nelson Mandela Metropole University
* Training of over 700 offenders across the country in coaching rugby, boxing, football and handball in collaboration with SA Rugby, Boxing SA, SAFA and Handball South Africa.
Enhancing appropriate handling of children in conflict with the law
Whilst the Department Correctional Service prides itself for being a place of new beginnings, we are concerned at the fast-growing trend of children who are in our custody for having committed serious violent crimes. Whilst our department is charged with the duty of correcting the offending behaviour, rehabilitation of offenders, and reintegrating them into society, we need to place society, communities and indeed families at the centre of this entire process.
One area of great achievement is the reduction of the number of children incarcerated in correctional centres. We have reduced numbers of children in correctional centres by 51% from 4 129 in 2003 to 2 079 in 2007. This came about as a result of integrated intervention of Justice Crime Prevention and Security (JCPS) and social sector clusters that have taken collaboration to new heights over the years. More and more children are given alternative sentences and or put on diversion programmes, a clear indication of growing consensus and convergence of ideal practices within the criminal justice system. Challenges are still faced in terms of places of safety with appropriate facilities, security and personnel to provide key services to these children and the cluster is working with its sister cluster, social sector to address these gaps.
Department of Correctional Service made a commitment to supply information on children incarcerated in our facilities on a monthly basis to sister departments of the JCPS cluster to ensure prompt and appropriate action to speed up processing of children through the system. Currently we are assessing possible multiple implications of the Child Justice Bill on correctional services to ensure appropriate design of its rollout programme under the guidance of the Department of Justice and Constitutional Development.
Intensifying the onslaught against the HIV and AIDS pandemic
There can be no description of the progress made other than exceptional. For example, we reviewed our comprehensive HIV and AIDS programme, in line with the National Strategic Plan (NSP) (2007 to 2011) and continue to improve on its implementation resulting in the following achievements:
* 376 officials trained as Master Trainers and Peer Educators while over 3 300 offenders benefited from the same training programme in the 2007/08 financial year, multiplying our capacity to intervene at various stages of our fight against HIV and AIDS.
* 296 support groups were established while also running nearly 6 000 HIV and AIDS awareness and health education sessions reaching 108 000 offenders across the country. This contributed to the record of over 22 000 offenders undergoing the Voluntary Counselling and Testing sessions in the 2007/08 financial year only.
* To equip our professionals for handling the pandemic, 320 were trained on voluntary counselling and testing, while hundreds of nurses, custodial officials and other health professionals were trained in comprehensive management of HIV and AIDS and related diseases.
* Currently there are 16 accredited Antiretroviral (ARV) sites in correctional services with 4 294 offenders being on ARV therapy.
Chairperson, we are approaching this pandemic well armed with the results of the first ever national HIV and Syphilis prevalence survey. This survey showed that offenders' and officials' infection rates are not much different from those of the broader society. This was a scientific study conducted with the assistance and funding of the US Presidential Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief in Africa (PEPFAR) to the tune of R4.2 million. The progress we have made was acknowledged by the Deputy President recently when we launched the 16th antiretroviral management site in the Pretoria Management Area.
Affirming of victim participation
Chairperson, we had made a clear undertaking before to intensify efforts aimed at mainstreaming victims' roles and responsibilities in the management of our offender population, particularly in the parole system. I believe everyone knows that over the past four years, we changed Chairpersons and Deputy Chairpersons of the 52 Correctional Supervision and Parole Board (CSPB) to be autonomous representatives of the local communities, instead of Department of Correctional Service officials as before. We invested a lot on this project, including the provision of training, amongst others, victim empowerment to the chairpersons and their deputies as well as all their support personnel.
We also undertook to build appropriate offices for all these CSPB as a means of further facilitating victim and community participation in parole hearings at a cost of over R40 million between the last financial year up to 2010. To date we have since finalised the construction of nine CSPB offices.
Enhancing care to realise constitutional obligation to humane treatment
Chairperson, our Constitution implores us to ensure that basic human rights of all South Africans inclusive of offenders in our care are respected and promoted. These include everyone's right to primary health care services, subject to institutional means. I should hasten to state that we are providing care services that are commensurate or even in some instances better than what ordinary uninsured citizens can get from public services. The services we provide should be understood within a context of prevention being better than cure in terms of investments needed for each intervention.
* It is common knowledge that the whole South African health care system has been suffering from the drain of scarce skills inclusive of medical practitioners, nurses, psychologists and social workers. Correctional services are no exception from this national norm, which informed government's intervention through the introduction of occupation specific dispensation for these professionals. These interventions with added departmental strategies to attract and retain scarce skills, we have made good progress in some area while in others targets have not been met fully.
* With the numbers of Social Workers improving, the department reached 157 44 offenders, conducted over 180 000 interviews during the 2007/08 financial year.
* We reached our targets in providing spiritual care services with 165 000 sessions held inclusive of group and individual sessions. In addition we joined hands to ensure that the Heartlines campaign reached all offenders, and also introduced Sycamore Tree programme to promote restoration as well as CHATSEC to combat HIV and AIDS. These, working together with our security enhancement, social work services, more productive engagement of offenders, are helping in reducing incidents of violence and assault in our facilities by 53% in the previous financial year.
* We reached only 84% of our targeted delivery of psychological services with 13 034 offenders reached against our aim of 15 500 in the previous financial year, due to the loss of 12 psychologists within one year. This scarcity should be understood within the context I have described, because only 6% (419) of registered psychologists are in government broadly, with 8% (33) of them in correctional services. As it were, we have 17 psychologists for 100 000 population while 100 000 uninsured South Africans share only two psychologists.
* In the interest of a safer and more secure South Africa with reduced re-offending, I believe, with all hands on deck we will address this challenge with among others:
* the introduction of Occupation Specific Dispensation (OSD) for psychologists and educationists in 2009
* a task team of eminent persons representing various professions from within and outside of the department is working on a model for "Centres of Expertise", that will ensure optimal utilisation of existing scarce skills for each region. This task team is expected to also address the allocation of resources proportionate to each region and
* a job evaluation process is underway, as part of the department's recruitment and retention strategy to improve the conditions of service of professionals in our employment.
Improving functioning of statutory bodies for enhanced service delivery
Judicial Inspectorate of Prisons
We have continued to improve the environment for effective functioning of the Judicial Inspectorate of Prisons over the review period. The provisions of the Correctional Services Act have been amended and the structure improved with the appointment of an additional senior manager. Let me take this opportunity to thank Judge Yekiso for acting in this position over the past year, and welcome his successor Judge Deon Van Zyl. Among the tasks of the Judicial Inspectorate is to:
* inspect or arrange for inspection of correctional centres in order to report on the treatment of offenders and their conditions
* to inspect any corrupt or dishonest practices in correctional centres
* the Inspecting Judge may only deal with complaints submitted by the National Council on Correctional Services (NCCS), the Minister, the Commissioner, a Visitors Committee and Independent Prison Visitors
* the Inspecting Judge must submit a report on each inspection to the minister
* the Inspecting Judge must submit an annual report to the President and the Minister, as stipulated in the Act.
The allocated budget for this Inspectorate for the 2008/09 financial year is R17,905 million.
National Council on Correctional Services
Chairperson, the National Council on Correctional Services (NCCS) continued with its statutory responsibility to advise the Minister of Correctional Services in relation to parole placement recommendations for offenders serving life sentences. In the course of the 2007/8 financial year, the NCCS considered 30 cases, and recommended placement on parole for 14 cases, non placement for nine cases, and requested that seven cases be reconsidered.
During the year under review, the NCCS has also interacted with the department in relation to the development of the incarceration framework as envisaged in the Correctional Services Amendment Act. The allocated budget for the NCCS in the current financial year is R703 000.
In conclusion, I would like to take this opportunity to call upon our communities and, especially members of the private sector, to embrace ex-offenders upon their release. The continued stigmatisation, marginalisation and social isolation of former offenders often lead to repeat offending and a continuation of the cycle of crime.
Let us, therefore, embrace and welcome ex-offenders and acknowledge the fact that they have paid their dues to society. You will, therefore, all assist correctional services to become a place of new beginnings. Let us, indeed, place all hands on deck to ensure that it is indeed business unusual.
Issued by: Department of Correctional Service
5 June 2008
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