Department of Correctional Services’ past activities: public hearings & submissions
Committee: Correctional Services
Chairperson: Mr V Smith (ANC)
Date of Meeting: 16 Jun 2009
SummaryThe session provided an opportunity for organisations representing civil society to comment on the course of action and activities that the Department of Correctional Services (DCS) had adopted over the preceding years. This was linked throughout to the role of budgeting. Discussion of future budgetary projections and considerations were generally placed against the background of the recent past. The Parliamentary White Paper on Corrections of 2005 emerged as a reference point. Nearly all the presentations attempted to discern whether budgeting trends were in line with this document, and if not, what might be done to improve adherence to it. Broadly speaking, the White Paper had sought to prioritise rehabilitation and reintegration into society for the offender, but it was consistently pointed out that the DCS budget had failed, and was still failing, to adequately provide for such objectives. There was agreement among the entities that security considerations had become and probably would remain as the DCS budget priority. Prison overcrowding and recidivism could be traced back to a lack of rehabilitation capacity, in turn related to insufficient funding.
The Judicial Inspectorate for Correctional Services stressed the need for the self-sufficiency of prisons through industry and food cultivation. It noted with concern that there was a skewing of DCS spending patterns in favour of security, at the cost of development, care and rehabilitation. Business principles had to be applied, and prison labour had to be utilised in the interests of self-sufficiency.
The Civil Society Prison Reform Initiative (CSPRI) pointed out that the review of the criminal justice system had resulted in more and quicker prosecutions, which contributed to overcrowding in prisons. It had found low involvement in literary programmes in prison, and there was a concern with the small budget allocation to reintegration.
National Institute for Crime Prevention and Reintegration of Offenders commended the consideration of non-custodial sentencing practices by the DCS. However, there was also concern about the fact that social reintegration remained a lesser priority in budget allocation. Overcrowding in prisons was seen as a problem, but the Public/Private Partnership initiatives to build new prisons was not seen as a solution to that. It was felt that these facilities could introduce an element of discrimination between state and private prisons.
Khulisa emphasised departure from the objectives set out in the White Paper on Corrections. Development, correction and social reintegration had to give substance to those objectives, but the DCS had failed to increase its budget in line with that, and with its own ambitions.
The Institute for Security Studies (ISS) pointed out lack of resources, especially classrooms, and dehumanising conditions in many prisons. It saw a discrepancy between the White Paper focus on rehabilitation, and the fact that minimum sentence legislation articulated incarceration for retribution, and as a deterrent.
The Police and Prisons Civil Rights Union (POPCRU) dealt with the failure of the DCS to implement Occupation Specific Dispensation related resolutions. The management structure of the Department was described as top-heavy and bureaucratic. There was a need for more personnel at the point where service delivery really took place. A need for the building of new prison facilities was articulated, but the Union was opposed to these becoming privately owned enterprises. Prison labour could be utilised in building projects, which would have the result of skilling prisoners.
The Public Service Association (PSA) reported on problems experienced with the DCS, concerning the implementation of Occupation Specific Dispensation and the Seven Day Establishment. Morale of personnel had been negatively affected. Personnel losses had been experienced in preceding years, and the implementation of the Seven Day Establishment would reduce the number of correctional officers per shift, exacerbating already unsafe conditions.
Members held lively and substantial discussions, which attempted not to interrogate the various organisations, but to elicit clarification and suggestions from them. There was unanimity concerning the need to re-emphasise White Paper objectives. However, the Public/Private Partnership prison initiatives provoked some contrasting viewpoints. There was some support for involving prisoners in occupational projects. However, the desirability of using prison labour for self-sufficiency was qualified with the rider that it should not imply a return to forced labour. It was clear, however, that the image of the prisoner or awaiting-trial detainee who was unable to work or study was becoming unacceptable to civil society and Parliament alike. It was important to note that the call for involving prisoners in meaningful work, was not linked to a call for a larger budget, but rather for a new look at allocation priorities.
Judicial Inspectorate for Correctional Services (JICS or Inspectorate) submission
Judge Deon van Zyl, Inspecting Judge, Judicial Inspectorate for Correctional Services, noted that the Inspectorate was an independent observer, and lacked the mandate to check the budget. He underlined the importance of the 2005 Parliamentary White Paper on Corrections. Based on that, he urged that questions be asked about more funding for restorative justice, and the re-integration of offenders. The same applied to the extension of educational facilities and opportunities in prisons.
Mr Gideon Morris, National Manager, Judicial Inspectorate for Correctional Services, commenced with the observation that the budgetary process was a powerful lever in the hands of the Portfolio Committee to ensure that the Department of Correctional Services (DCS) was steered in the right direction.
He noted that the total budget for DCS for 2009/10 amounted to R13.2 billion. That meant an expenditure of about R36 million per day to care for 112 618 inmates currently in correctional centres, as well as the 49 477 kept as awaiting-trial detainees.
It was estimated that in 2011/12, R18 billion per year would be spent on correctional services. The figure for 1997 had been only R3, 5 billion. The sustainability of such growth was questionable. The JICS had in the past expressed concerns about the lack of focus in the budget and strategic plan of the DCS to develop the business side of DCS.
The Correctional Services Act 111of 1998 stated that the Department had to be self sufficient and operate according to business principles. Achieving self-sufficiency necessitated the setting up of industries, prison farms, and the like, in the facilities. The Act was clear about the fact that DCS had a statutory obligation to create industries to achieve self-sufficiency. As it was, able-bodied young people were spending 23 hours per day locked up in cells, not engaged in any meaningful work or rehabilitation programmes.
In some cases, DCS had achieved remarkable results, notably in poverty alleviation programmes, where prison labour was used to produce vegetables for poor communities. Yet performance indicators showed a reduction in levels of self-sufficiency over the previous few years. Between 1997 and 2007, the number of inmates involved in agriculture decreased from 6 674 to 2 210, and in production workshops, from 2 359 to 1 757.
The second observation made by Mr Morris concerned a skewing in spending patterns in favour of security, and at the cost of priorities like development and care. Parliament had approved a White paper on Corrections in South Africa during February 2005. This White paper placed rehabilitation at the centre of DCS activities, but since the 2004/2005 financial year, the budget had not been aligned with this new vision.
Mr Morris argued that whereas security was indeed important, the continued investment in perimeter fencing and external security measures had become wasteful. He suggested that billions of rands that were currently being spent to marginally reduce the escape rate should rather be channelled into the development, rehabilitation and social reintegration of inmates. This could also promote higher levels of self-sufficiency.
The intention of the DCS to provide an environment that ensured the safety of all persons was noted. Assaults by prison gangs on vulnerable prisoners required urgent attention. But he urged that any strategy aimed at creating a safe environment simply had to include the maintenance and expansion of the complaints system.
It was the view of the JICS that the Committee should set performance indicators to the DCS, to ensure the latter’s rate of spending on Care and Development.
He concluded that the JICS budget came from that of the DCS, and that in the previous year it had amounted to a mere 0,12% of the total budget.
Mr J Selfe (DA) said that he wanted to underscore the importance of work provided for prisoners. However, he wanted to know why this tail-off had occurred, pointing out that although there were now more DCS personnel employed per prisoner, there were fewer people working.
Mr Morris reiterated that the DCS had emphasised security over the preceding five years. Work in agriculture had decreased by 57% as a result. He was prepared to grant that farm work created the risk of escape, but felt that the DCS had overemphasised this.
Ms W Ngwenya (ANC) commented that the Committee desired to examine the issues presented, in more detail.
Mr N Fihla (ANC) agreed that development could help reduce the crime rate. He pointed out, however, that many people involved in organised crime, especially, were sophisticated people. Some of them were serving life sentences. He asked whether they would necessarily benefit from rehabilitation.
Judge van Zyl replied that not all crime was equally serious, and agreed that not everyone could be rehabilitated or reintegrated, but he remained convinced that the vast majority could indeed derive benefit. That had been the purpose of the White Paper. Work was afoot to improve the criminal justice system. The judge remarked that he had seen hardened criminals softened, and people who had committed heinous crimes develop a desire to serve the community. The more spent on encouraging that, the better.
Mr Selfe referred to new beds that would become available for correctional facilities. He said that there was a need for proper forecasting models. Despite available beds, there seemed to be inadequate funding for the staffing of prisons.
Mr Morris said that 16 000 beds would become available. He again stressed that overemphasis on security created a shortage of funding for development, in spite of the fact that there was a statutory need for prisons to be self-sufficient. He did not want to imply that dangerous people should be freed, but it would not do to have them sitting idle, either.
Civil Society Prison Reform Initiative (CSPRI) submission
Mr Lukas Muntingh, Project Coordinator, Civil Society Prison Reform Initiative pointed out that the CSPRI focused on prisons and corrections, with the aim of improving the human rights situation in South African prisons, through research-based lobbying and advocacy, and collaboration with civil society structures. After consideration of the size of the DCS budget, he asked whether in the current economic climate, South Africa could continue to imprison at the current rate of more than 340 per hundred thousand of the population.
South Africa found itself in a recession, and the planned construction of four new Public/Private Partnership (PPP) prisons under a 25 –year agreement would place a significant burden on the taxpayer, who was already struggling under tough economic conditions. The current legislative and policy frameworks made ample provision for alternatives to imprisonment, but these were under utilised for a number of reasons, budget allocation being one of them.
Regarding the size of the prison population, he noted that government had embarked on a review of the criminal justice system. This could result in more successful and quicker prosecutions, which would not help the problem of prison overcrowding. In fact it could have the opposite effect. The problem of overcrowding could become so severe as to threaten the implementation of the White Paper.
Mr Muntingh referred to the 2007/8 Annual Report of the Judicial Inspectorate, relating to infrastructure. Some of the findings were that prisoners had to eat with their hands at 21 prisons, sleep on the floor at several of the prisons surveyed, and that in 94% of prisons there were no facilities to separate prisoners with contagious diseases.
He proceeded to deal with the engagement of prisoners in programmes and employment. The percentage of prisoners engaged in literacy programmes was low. The budget vote reported a total of 20 174 work opportunities created for prisoners in 2007/8. It was not reported for how many hours per day in any given week prisoners were occupied, or what the nature of the work was. A real effort had to be made to combat idleness and boredom within the prison system.
Concerning preparation for release and post-release support, the CSPRI had expressed concern in previous submissions about the small allocation in the budget towards the Social Reintegration Programme. Since 2003/4 the average proportional share had been 3.2% per year. CSPRI’s own research indicated that little support was available for released offenders, even those on parole.
He concluded that the DCS would have to work better with its available resources and had to increase the productivity of both staff and prisoners. The large-scale spending on capital works and expensive equipment, while neglecting services to offenders and released offenders, was a worrying imbalance.
National Institute for Crime Prevention and Reintegration of Offenders (NICRO) submission
Ms Venessa Padayachee, National Manager: Advocacy, described NICRO as a national Non-Government Organisation (NGO) that annually touches the lives of more than 50 000 direct beneficiaries, especially young offenders; incarcerated persons; released prisoners and their families; abused women and survivors of domestic violence, and vulnerable communities.
In its previous submission to the Committee in 2007, NICRO had argued that the high rate of recidivism among ex-prisoners was indicative of failure on the part of government and civil society to successfully reintegrate offenders back into society. Based on the budget allocation of 2007/8, NICRO believed that far more resources needed to be allocated to social reintegration.
It had also been acknowledged that overcrowding remained a challenge that threatened an offender’s human dignity and sense of social responsibility.
NICRO was pleased to see that adult diversions were beginning to be seriously considered, and that non-custodial sentencing practice was being considered. A submission had already been made to the Portfolio Committee on the issue of prison labour, as a means of rehabilitation and reintegration.
Family reunification and reconstructive services had also been raised as critical aspects of social reintegration.
NICRO wished to congratulate the DCS on its increased stakeholder initiatives, especially an engagement with NICRO to re-establish the value of family relations and a family therapy approach as critical components of rehabilitation.
There was concern, however, about the fact that social reintegration remained the “step child”, receiving too little in budgetary allocation. NICRO called for a radical shift in the budget allocation, away from a figure of around 3%.
Overcrowding remained an issue that deserved more attention, as well as the very low number of inmates who had correctional sentence plans. More time, energy and budget had to be made available.
Ms Padayachee considered the adoption of the PPP approach to establishing the new generational correctional service centres at Paarl and elsewhere. The concern was that this approach could introduce serious discrimination in the standards of care and services afforded to inmates in the different categories of correctional centres. These centres could poach the best personnel from the public sector as they offered more attractive benefits.
Despite the vision of the 2005 White Paper on Corrections, recidivism rates remained unacceptably high. Recidivism rates could be linked to prison overcrowding, and the building of new prisons was not an adequate solution to this. NICRO strongly recommended non-custodial sentencing. There had been an increase in the average length of custodial sentences, and instances of inappropriate sentencing. Prison confinement dehumanised and diminished individuals, resulting in former inmates being less capable of effectively reintegrating into society. Imprisonment had to be considered as the last resort.
She concluded that offender rehabilitation and reintegration was not only the responsibility of the DCS, but a responsibility shared with all the departments in the Criminal Justice Cluster, and the relevant civil society organisations.
Ms Lesley-Anne van Selm, Founder, Khulisa described Khulisa as a non-profit organization that was active in the field of criminal rehabilitation and reintegration, youth and community development. Khulisa worked in all South African provinces, providing programmes and activities to discourage young people from criminal activity, and empowering youth to play a positive role in their families and communities.
Ms van Selm expressed the conviction that the programmes of Corrections, Development and Social Reintegration were the ones that could transform the DCS and give substance to the goals outlined in the White Paper. Yet there seemed to be a total failure of the Department to increase its budget in line with its ambitions.
She described the recidivism rate in South Africa as “abysmal”. Investments had to be made in both money and human capital. Only about 15% of inmates were involved in formal education. She questioned what proportion of incarcerated youth was actually being deprived of educational opportunities, thus contributing to the recidivism situation.
Ms van Selm observed that the DCS statistics quoted did not indicate needs, simply the proposed growth. It was stated that sentence plans would be in place for 13 310 offenders in 2011/12, but she posed the question what proportion of the need would actually be met.
Recidivism rates could be greatly reduced through comprehensive and holistic initiatives in Correction, Development and Social Reintegration. But these initiatives could not be undertaken without cost. Such a cost would however be an investment in the future of the country, yet the budget paper showed a failure to grasp the opportunity.
Institute for Security Studies (ISS) presentation
Dr Chandre Gould, Senior Researcher: Crime, Justice and Politics Programme, Institute for Security Studies, defined the ISS as an African non-governmental policy research institute.
Dr Gould noted that since 2005/6, the Correctional Services budget had increased at a rate higher than inflation. It was set to increase at an even higher rate over the Medium Term Expenditure period. Spending on PPP facilities accounted for the bulk of the increase.
Despite the sizeable budget that continued to be allocated to the DCS, the services this Department offered continued to fall short of what had been envisaged by the White Paper on Corrections. The previous three Annual Reports of the Judicial Inspectorate had made repeated reference to problems associated with prison overcrowding. There was found to be a general lack of resources, especially a lack of classrooms.
She defined prison overcrowding as a chronic problem, over which the DCS had limited control. The problem had been relieved in the past through cooperation between SAPS, magistrates and judges, and through the large-scale releases in the form of amnesties and remissions. However, a long-term solution still had to be found. The DCS was a member of the Justice and Security cluster, and could use that position to determine ways in which at least to reduce the Awaiting Trial Detainee (ATD) population.
The Judicial inspectorate had called attention to the exacerbating effect that the minimum sentencing legislation had had on the size of the prison population. The White Paper expressed the view that prisons were places for the rehabilitation of offenders, but the minimum sentencing legislation articulated incarceration as serving a retributive and deterrent purpose, and as a tool for removing harmful individuals from society. Dr Gould maintained that the two approaches were irreconcilable.
Unless there was an increase in the number of offenders taking advantage of skills development opportunities and rehabilitation programmes, the objective of developing offenders’ sense of social responsibility, to facilitate their social reintegration, was unlikely to be met.
The DCS seemingly failed to consider the serious concerns raised by the Judicial Inspectorate regarding the shortcomings of new facilities. The Inspectorate had reported on the fact that prisoners relied on emotional support from their families. The new facilities, however, were to be built in remote areas, and could undermine that support.
She concluded that the ISS would want the Portfolio Committee to attend to the extremely high expenditure, across sections of the Correctional Services budget, on consultants and outsourced services. The extremely expensive Sondolo IT contract saw a core DCS function – that of prison security - being outsourced.
The ISS requested that the Portfolio Committee exercise close oversight over such matters in the coming year.
Mr Fihla congratulated all those making submissions. He said that the work of the Committee could only be successful if complemented by the efforts of others. The Committee dealt with something hard to work with, being the human being.
He described prison overcrowding as a “cancer” present in many countries, though in some apparently not a problem. Government sought to overcome this problem through reintegration of the Justice Cluster. The Committee awaited suggestions. The Judicial Inspectorate had a structure to deal with prisons, and could inspect anywhere. Judge Fagan, former Inspecting Judge, used to say that there were many who “loitered” in prison, such as minor offenders and those who were incarcerated for not being able to pay bail, and the Inspectorate or prison visitors could identify such people immediately. A pilot project had been launched in Port Elizabeth, where senior prosecutors, corrections officials and police officers would assess offenders to decide who had to go to prison, and who could be diverted. Another route would be for the prison visitors to submit records often to the DCS, and the Cluster.
He referred to criticism of the PPP new generational prisons because of the high cost. However, quality came at a cost. If an inmate was persuaded to forego gang membership in order to be moved to such a facility, something would have been achieved. The system of unit management had been copied from other countries for these prisons. These facilities could have a humanising effect. They were more sophisticated, and geared to rehabilitation. Recidivism could be addressed.
Mr A Fritz (DA) referred to private sector involvement in prison activities. He asked why, for instance, prisoners could not cook for themselves. He knew from personal observation that in prisons where cooking was outsourced, it was the prisoners who did the bulk of the work anyway, with only an outside overseer or two present.
Mr Smith requested that members not lose sight of the purpose of the meeting. The aim for the day was not to interrogate the presenters, but to identify issues that the Committee could take to the DCS.
Mr Fritz moved on to the anomaly of children who awaited trial, and were thereby prevented from studying, and asked why schools could not bring work to them.
Mr Fritz also noted the discrepancy between the retributive goals of minimum sentencing and the objectives of rehabilitation, and he asked how harmony between the two could be achieved.
Mr Selfe remarked on the link between overcrowding and minimum sentence legislation. Diversion and non-custodial sentencing were alternatives, but he would like to know what prevented wider application of such measures.
Mr Smith said that he saw the meeting as a chance for the Committee to interact with civil society who spoke for South Africa. There was disappointment in the DCS because of the focus on incarceration. The question remained as to how ready South Africans were to receive offenders back into the community. The PPP building initiatives, with attendant direct foreign investment, were said to be discriminatory, but no real alternatives had been offered. Civil society was concerned about the lack of funding for Care and Development, and it was necessary then to consider where could the budget be cut, in order to make funds available for these – whether this should come from building prisons, for instance, or the salaries of personnel. He implored the entities present to empower the Committee with inputs and responses to questions like these, so that suggestions could be taken to the DCS with good effect.
Judge van Zyl emphasised the importance of teamwork and the involvement of stakeholders for government, when it came to budgeting. The DCS was inevitably linked, in discussion, to police arrest, but this might not be entirely justifiable. An offender had to appear before a magistrate, before he could end up in prison. Education, Health and Welfare were all role players. The government had to have some budget common to these overlapping areas.
He pointed out that before an arrest could take place, there had to be very sound reasons. There was, however, no point in incarceration while an investigation was in progress. Magistrates and prosecutors had to be persuaded of this. He advocated that there be a budgeted Committee that could be tasked to divert offenders where possible, and that plea bargaining could be introduced. 80% to 90% of offenders held while awaiting trial were never convicted. An investigating officer would often neglect to pursue a case, and the offender would languish in prison. Cases were postponed repeatedly. Retired magistrates and a Council could be given a budget to investigate such matters. A holistic and flexible approach was needed. An incarcerated person might be willing to plead guilty and speed up proceedings if approached.
Judge van Zyl proceeded to the question of whether South Africans were ready to receive offenders back into society. The public was not ready in the sense that there were fears of recidivism. The only way out was to lead by example. There were some former inmates who worked for the Judicial Inspectorate, and they were hard workers, who were setting an example that could be used to educate the public that repeat of an offence was not inevitable.
On the subject of PPP initiatives, the judge remarked that he had visited Mangaung and PPP centres, and had had discussions with a UK High Commissioner. The British were interested. These prisons were expensive, but management and administrative skills acquired there could be transferred to other prisons. Mangaung could say, for instance, that it could only accommodate 3 000 prisoners, but ordinary prisons had to take what was handed to them.
If offenders had been caught and locked up without good reasons, there had to be the means in place to alleviate the situation. The criminal justice and corrections system was the first link in a chain. But a larger Cluster had to be put in place.
Mr Muntingh directed his response to questions phrased by Mr Fritz and the Chairperson. With regard to whether schools should be bringing work in to children, he said that this created a sense of reluctance on the part of DCS to deal with unsentenced persons, as if it was not the responsibility of that Department. The same applied to inmates serving less than 24 months. The placing of prisoners in private care also whittled down the DCS mandate, in fact removing responsibility from the Commissioner.
On the question of the alleviation of overcrowding, and the obstacles to this, he was convinced that the problem originated in legislation and policy. Minimum sentencing legislation contributed greatly. It was not so much the size, but the profile, of the prison population that was relevant. There had been an increase in the length of prison terms. The effect was that fewer people were serving longer terms. The sentencing framework was the chief obstacle. Screening and better pre-trial services could be solutions, but the Department of Justice had done away with programmes aimed at that.
The judiciary had apparently lost faith in other forms of correctional supervision. The Supreme Court of Appeal had become very critical, and the confidence of judges had to be regained.
The public would become more receptive if it could see results. Judges had a legislative duty to consider non-custodial, supervisory options.
4 000 people were currently released each month. It was not so much a question of whether South Africans was ready for this, but whether there was the capacity in the country to deal with the new influx of people each month. It was extremely difficult for released offenders to find employment, and he suggested that Government could set an example. The prison population was not evenly spaced across the country. The Government could intervene, through local government, in identified problem communities.
Mr Muntingh said that it was not so much a matter of cutting the budget, although perhaps less could be allocated to capital expenditure, as directing it towards results. In this vein, questions arose about the lack of funding for literacy, for example.
Ms Padayachee spoke to alternatives to incarceration. Non-custodial sentencing diversions existed, but the confidence of magistrates to exercise these options had to be increased. Alternatives had to be resourced and there was a need for more probation officers. Capacity for assessment had to be increased.
Public support had to be encouraged. NICRO was planning a campaign to educate the public. Families had been approached to see if they understood the situation of the offender. There had to be informal engagement with communities. Social capital was generated when offenders could establish meaningful relations with neighbours and others in the community. Offenders had to be brought back from the periphery.
Fragmented service delivery was at the heart of the problem. There had to be joint planning between departments.
Regarding cuts to the budget, she suggested that a cut was possible in the amounts allocated to security, as too much money was spent on things like fencing. The public private partnership had to be examined in terms of what new prisons cost. She was in favour of utilising prison labour.
Mr Morris pointed out that the PPP towards new generational prisons attracted direct foreign investment. It amounted to a combination of South African money and foreign interest. People tended to forget that it was about partnership. The government had to pay these partners, but the country was learning from them. At Mangaung, staff absence was around 15%, as compared to more than 30% at the government prisons. These projects brought in international specialists, paid by government.
As to possible budget cuts, he suggested outsourcing. If prisoners could produce their own food, for instance, money could be saved. The principle at stake was self-sufficiency. It had recently come to his attention that prisons were outsourcing the mowing of lawns, although there were strong young men in those same prisons who could do the job.
If absenteeism among DCS personnel could be reduced, money would be saved. There were 45 000 people working for the Department. Business principles had to be applied.
Concerning overcrowding, he said that the issue was not so much how much space was available to each prisoner, but how space was utilised. The State prisons in fact allotted more cell space (3.5 square metres) than the private ones (2.5 square metres). The difference was that in the private prisons, cells were only used to sleep in. Prisoners were taken out of cells during the day and kept occupied outside. Removing people out of cells during the day could be the solution to overcrowding.
Police and Prisons Civil Rights Union (POPCRU) submission
Mr uNathi ka Theledi, Deputy General Secretary, POPCRU, said that it was of crucial importance to participatory democracy and social equality to include significant stakeholders in budget deliberations.
Relations between POPCRU and the DCS were becoming strained due to suspension of POPCRU members by the management in the Gauteng region. These suspensions were related to conflicts around the implementation of the Occupation Specific Dispensation (OSD). In 2008, POPCRU had drawn the Portfolio Committee’s attention to the fact that allocations for implementation of a Public Service Commission Resolution 1 of 2007 were being used by the DCS to pay for legal processes contesting the interpretation of agreements, rather than implementing the gains of labour achieved through such resolutions.
15 months later, on 4 June 2009, POPCRU was served with an interdict prohibiting members from demonstrating their dissatisfaction about the failure of the Department to implement resolutions.
Mr Theledi related such conflicts to the fact that the DCS had what he termed a top-heavy structure. He referred to that configuration as a bloated and distended bureaucracy. POPCRU wished to submit that the Department would do better with a “lean and mean” top structure, with more personnel allocated lower down, where the actual service delivery work took place.
Linked to the need for a staff complement commensurate with the number of inmates was the question of training. The DCS could not afford to have correctional officers, especially managers, who acted against the ethos of the DCS, due to an inability to administer and manage efficiently. Managers had to be especially competent to make the labour relations unit function properly.
He urged the importance of the construction of more correctional facilities. He stressed, however, that allocated funds should not go to private institutions, and that such institutions should be owned by the State. Prisoners could be involved in building projects. A family member of his had been a convict, who acquired building skills in prison and later used those to sustain himself on his release. Baviaanspoort and Zonderwater prisons were built by prisoners. That was one way of skilling individuals.
Public Service Association (PSA) presentation
Mr Koos Kruger, Provincial Manager, Public Service Association, said that the imminent implementation of an Occupation Specific Dispensation held promise for DCS employees, but that it had turned into disappointment. The DCS had insisted that the implementation of the Seven Day Establishment should form part of an OSD agreement. The DCS proposal required an extension of twenty working hours for Correctional Service Officers per month. Initially, a reduction of working hours had been proposed.
The PSA was convinced that the DCS currently did not have the resources to effectively implement the Seven Day Establishment. It would reduce the number of officers per shift, and exacerbate the already unsafe conditions that members were exposed to.
Mr Fritz referred to the claim that the DCS management structure had become top heavy, and asked for suggestions as to how this could be restructured.
Ms Ngwenya asked how the Committee could help in the matter of long suspensions of corrections officers. It was a costly matter. She noted that there had been reports of officers assisting inmates to escape, or to conduct smuggling, and she asked POPCRU to comment upon that.
Mr Smith ventured that an amount of R9 million to pay suspended staff was not sustainable, and was unacceptable to the Committee. The Committee would engage with any agency to defend this stance. Disciplinary action against anyone who had broken the law had to be decisive, no matter who was the subject of the disciplinary proceedings.
He referred to Mr Theledi’s relative who had learned a trade in prison. What was required was a look at inmate privilege from a human rights perspective. He asked whether it was still acceptable to the South African public that the inmates would simply be permitted to sit all day and watch television.
He also asked that the notion of top-heaviness be clarified.
Mr Theledi responded that with regard to the comments around suspension of staff, POPCRU did not subscribe to contravention, and was party to disciplinary processes. If someone had to be fired the Union would insist that correct procedure was followed. With the OSD issue, the DCS had not responded to the Union’s call, but instead had employed suspension as a sanction against members. There had been demonstrations all over the country, but such problems had only arisen in Gauteng.
On the matter of inmate privilege, Mr Theledi opined that skills acquisition was more important, and was an antidote to idleness that led to boredom.
Mr Smith assured the organisations that the Strategic Plan that had not yet been made available to them would be received soon. The Department would be reprimanded for the failure to make it accessible.
He concluded with the assertion that the Committee was committed to the cultivation of a team spirit. Partnerships could be terminated, and other partners found, but a team had to see things through together. He invited all present to engage with him before the Committee met with the DCS, as their comments and concerns would be conveyed to the DCS.
The meeting was adjou
- Public Service Association (PSA) submission
- Police and Prisons Civil Rights Union (POPCRU) submission 2
- Police and Prisons Civil Rights Union (POPCRU) submission 1
- Institute for Security Studies (ISS) submission
- Khulisa submission
- National Institute for Crime Prevention and Reintegration of Offenders (Nicro) submission
- Civil Society Prison Reform Initiative (CSPRI) submission
- Judicial Inspectorate for Correctional Services submission