Prisons ‘are too full’
South Africa is like the rest of the world and is ‘not immune to the numbers’ drama’
SOUTH Africa’s prisons continue to be grossly overcrowded with an average inmate population of 160 280 in the 20162017 financial year for the 119 134 spaces available in the country’s Department of Correctional Services (DCS) facilities.
According to the DCS, which has been taken to court on matters related to prison overcrowding in the past, overcrowding of prisons is a universal problem.
The department says this is despite efforts to find a solution worldwide.
The DCS has attributed the problem partly to the public’s equating of security with long prison sentences and opposition to parole.
“This shows South Africa is not immune from the overcrowding phenomenon.
The challenge of overcrowding hampers the department from carrying out its mandate of rehabilitating offenders and facilitating their reintegration into society,” DCS spokesperson Singabakho Nxumalo said.
He said this was evident in the reports by the Public Service Commission and judges of the Constitutional Court “who have observed non-compliance with minimum standards for the incarceration of offenders”.
“Irrespective of figures refusing to go below 119134 in line with the approved bed space, the DCS has made correctional facilities centres of hope.”
Nxumalo said the partnership and coordination within the criminal justice cluster had improved tremendously and continues to have a positive impact on the work of correctional services.
“Different mechanisms and strategies to reduce overcrowding are being explored.
A recent example is Pollsmoor management area in the Western Cape where overcrowding was reduced by at least 150%, clearly indicating that the DCS is ready to confront the challenge of overcrowding,” Nxumalo said.
The department has decided to engage communities to assist in its efforts to reduce overcrowding.
“The department has identified the following stakeholders as another arm that can help to reduce overcrowding, the family of offenders, communities, private sector, faith based organisation and international community.
“These institutions can also help deal with the issue of recidivism (reoffending),” Nxumalo said.
The DCS has also created 407 additional beds through upgrades.
“We expect the numbers to increase after the completion of numerous projects that the department is busy with,” Nxumalo said.
To address overcrowding, the DCS has implemented a multipronged strategy that among others include: • Managing remand detainees. • Managing levels of sentenced inmates through improving effective, and appropriate use of conversion of sentence to community correctional supervision, release on parole, and transfers.
• Fast tracking upgrade and building of new facilities.
• Improving correction. • Encouraging community involvement in social reintegration.
CROWDED HOUSE: Correctional Services has implemented several strategies to fight overcrowding.