Correctional Services Minister Sibusiso Ndebele convened his first meeting with the National Council for Correctional Services (NCCS) in Johannesburg today 21 September 2012.
The focus of the meeting was to monitor and evaluate progress of the NCCS. Issues discussed at the meeting included:
The NCCS, currently chaired by Judge Siraj Desai, is a statutory body, appointed in terms of Section 83 and 84 of the Correctional Services Act (Act 111 of 1998). Its primary purpose is to provide advice in terms of policy, with regards to the correctional system and the sentencing process.
“The trilogy of offender, victim and community must come to the fore. According to law, an offender is regarded as having committed an offence against the state (even the charge sheet reads ‘State versus the accused’), and the criminal procedure is complete once due legal process has been complied with. However, the victim must also be central to the justice system. Rehabilitation of offenders must take into account the feelings, and hurt, of victims, even if this results in a simple acknowledgement of wrongdoing to the victim. Although this may not be a legal requirement, it is fundamentally important to the victim.
“I would like the NCCS to know that you have my full support in the work that you are doing, and I am looking forward to your proposals, recommendations and further engagements to assist the Department in fulfilling our mandate,” Minister Ndebele said.
Meanwhile, the Minister has called on communities to take responsibility for correcting offender behaviour as Corrections Week is commemorated next week. “From the 24 to 30 September annually, Corrections Week is commemorated to create awareness amongst communities, and other stakeholders, that Corrections is a Societal Responsibility. The emphasis is on communities taking responsibility for correcting offender behaviour, through foundations units in the family and community.
“Correctional centres must not be places for locking people up and throwing away the key, not for letting offenders rot in cells; but places where offenders have to face up to what they have done to victims, engage with restorative justice processes, complete corrections and development programmes, become involved in production workshops, bakeries, farming and return to the community with skills.
When the cell is locked behind an inmate, he or she has nowhere else to turn but to focus their eyes on the way out of that cell: not through escapes, but through breaking the cycle of crime and reintegrating into the community. Correctional Services is the last hope for victims of crime, and for many of the individuals sentenced for crime.
All offenders, except lifers not recommended for parole, return to society at the end of the sentences. It is the responsibility of us all to ensure that they are in the best state to be constructive members of society upon their release. Building on that, our vision is of a trilogy of offenders, victims and the community, in partnership with each other and with the Department, to break the cycle of crime.
This trilogy underpins the moulding of a new person, against all odds, which a life of crime has thrown at them. There can be no sustainable rehabilitation and reintegration back into society, outside the trilogy of offender, victim and the community.” said the Minister.