Halfway Houses & NGO challenges with rehabilitation programmes; DCS Mid-Year Performance; Protected Disclosures Amendment Bill: adoption

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Justice and Correctional Services

16 November 2016
Chairperson: Dr M Motshekga (ANC)
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Meeting Summary

Protected Disclosures Amendment Bill
The Committee adopted the Protected Disclosures Amendment Bill after DA and ACDP members had reiterated their opposition to the criminalisation of false disclosure.

Halfway Houses and NGO challenges for rehabilitation programmes in Western Cape correctional centres
The Committee Researcher explained his findings on Halfway houses in the Western Cape. The Halfway House programme is geared to reduction of overcrowding and reoffending through the accommodation of offenders without support systems who qualify for parole. These houses serve as transit points for offenders whose families and communities are not ready to accept them. He recommended more research on the effectiveness of reintegration through halfway houses, tracking of ex-inmates, payment of stipends to inmates, enlightenment campaigns in communities, individualised programmes for inmates, and standardised training and support for house parents. He also presented the challenges experienced by NGOs in providing rehabilitation programmes in correctional centres in the Western Cape. Notable challenges include poor communication with correctional centre management, especially misunderstanding in scheduled time for visits, inadequate dedicated space and furniture to run programmes, noise pollution from conflicting programmes; absence of standardised schedules for programmes and poor staffing in correctional centres. He recommended better engagement between the DCS and management of correctional centres, prioritisation of offender rehabilitation, and training of correctional centre officials to cover for absent colleagues.
 
Responding, the Department of Correctional Services (DCS) delegation admitted the accuracy of the researcher’s findings, disclosing that competing activities in correctional facilities erode proper communication with NGOs. However, they cautioned against generalisation of the Western Cape findings, explaining remedial measures across all provinces such as boosting staff strength, and encouraging Halfway house inmates to bond with their families. They said that Halfway houses are unsustainable due to budgetary constraints.

In discussion, Members sought clarity on the philosophy behind Halfway houses, the criteria for selecting inmates, and the effectiveness of the electronic tagging of inmates. They queried the DCS service agreement with NGOs and the budgetary allocation to Halfway houses, expressing doubt over continued funding. They requested data on reoffending rates for inmates who have been to Halfway houses. Members suggested that parolees could be deployed on state farms and called for a workshop to consider the concept of Halfway houses. DCS replied that an in-depth accreditation process aims to promote its rehabilitation and reintegration goals, and to prevent the economic exploitation of parolees. It welcomed the suggestion of a workshop and requested time to respond to some of the questions in writing.

DCS Mid-Year Report
DCS achieved 62% of its targets for the reporting period, amounting to 21 of its 34 quarterly targets: 50% in Administration, 50% for Incarceration, 75% for Rehabilitation, 100% for Care, and 50% for Social reintegration. Expenditure of R10.994 billion (50.95%) was incurred against a spending plan of R10.637 billion (49.3%) with an overspending of R357 million. The reasons for over-expenditure include performance incentives for non-senior management staff, periodic payments to professionals and advisors, high cost of goods and services, high interest on rented land, transfers and subsidies, and payments due to delayed procurement processes of IT equipment. Measures are being taken to cut unnecessary expenditure. DCS efficiency is being eroded by budget cuts and it implored the Committee to create awareness on the impact of budget cuts.

Members sought clarity on the Occupation Specific Dispensation (OSD), statistics on parolees under electronic monitoring, damage to electronic tags, and remedial actions to combat over-expenditure. They expressed concern about avoidable over-spending, projected over-expenditure, inadequate bed spaces, and the impact of CCTV cameras on inmate privacy.

DCS explained that measures are being taken to implement the court’s ruling in the OSD issue. It has just appointed six regional coordinators to work on maintenance and building of additional facilities. On over spending, it admitted that DCS targets have not always been realistic, measurable, and time bound. Measures to reduce overspending include non-payment of performance bonuses to staff above level 12, increased use of video conferencing, and restrictions on events and travel. It explained the contractual status of additional bed spaces in new facilities. While 776 persons are currently under electronic monitoring, the number of persons under monitoring since April is 1 182. Sanctions such as criminal proceedings and revoking parole have been instituted against inmates who deliberately damage or lose their tags.
 

Meeting report

The Chairperson welcomed the Department of Correctional Services led by its National Commissioner.

Protected Disclosures Amendment Bill
The Committee went through the Committee Report on the adoption of the Bill.

Ms G Breytenbach (DA) complained that paragraph 8 of the Committee Report does not accurately reflect the Committee’s discussions. She proposed that the first sentence of the paragraph be amended to reflect that the DA and ACDP opposed the criminalisation of false disclosure. She also asked the Committee to remove ‘intention to cause harm’ from paragraph 8. She promised to write down the proposed amendments and give it to the Chairperson.

Mr B Bongo (ANC) opposed Ms Breytenbach’s proposal to remove ‘intention to cause harm.’

The Chairperson directed members to restrict comments to whether the report reflects the Committee’s discussions.

Mr W Horn (DA) declared that Mr Bongo seems to have misread paragraph 7.

Ms C Pilane-Majake (ANC) asked members to resolve Ms Breytenbach’s proposal.

The Chairperson read Ms Breytenbach’s proposal out to members.

Mr S Swart (ACDP) expressed support for Ms Breytenbach’s proposal.

Following the resolution of the appropriate wording of paragraph 7, Ms Pilane-Majake moved for the adoption of the Report. She was seconded by Ms Breytenbach, who made her approval subject to the DA’s reservations on the Bill.

Mr N Matiase (EFF) asked Ms Breytenbach to clarify her reservation because it appears to be contradictory. He stated that the reservation could raise problems when the Bill reaches the House.

The Chairperson clarified Ms Breytenbach’s reservations as relating only to the criminalisation of false disclosure. He called on members to vote. All members voted for adopting the Report, except Mr Matiase and Mr J Selfe (DA) who abstained.

Case Studies on Halfway Houses in the Western Cape
Mr Mpho Mathabathe, Parliamentary Researcher, explained the aims and methodology of the case study on Halfway houses. These houses began as a pilot project by the DCS in February 2012. The number and budgetary allocations of the houses are: Eastern Cape: 6, Gauteng: 8, Free State/Northern Cape: 7, Limpopo: 8, and KZN: 7. The budget allocation figures are:
• 2012/13: R120 037.33
• 2013/14: R1 400 000.00
• 2014/15: R3 630 535.00
• 2015/16: R8 980 000.00

Mr Mathabathe explained that Halfway houses play a key role in the reintegration of parolees into society. The reasons for these houses include poverty, high rates of reoffending, and poor relationship between parolees and their communities. They are operated in a manner that strikes a balance between normal homes and a rehabilitation facility. Their challenges include inmates’ fear of reintegration into society, fear of relapsing into crime and drugs; stubbornness in taking instructions from house parents, and bad behaviour such as disobedience and alcoholism. He recommended the following:
• More research on recidivism rate among those reintegrated through halfway houses.
• Tracking of residents that leave the facility and systematic data collection on successful reintegration and reoffending.
• DCS prioritisation of halfway houses establishment in all management areas
• Payment of a stipend per resident just like the current PPP correctional facilities.
• Enlightenment campaigns in communities about the need and role of halfway houses
• Individualised programmes for each parolee in a halfway house
• Standardised training and standardised support system for house parents.
• More research on the success or challenges of halfway houses in South Africa.

NGO challenges in providing rehabilitation programmes in correctional centres in Western Cape
Mr Mathabathe presented the challenges experienced by NGOs and faith based organisations (FBOs) in providing rehabilitation programmes in correctional centres in the Western Cape. He explained that semi-structured interviews were held with four organisations:
Mhani Gingi: Interview on 13 July 2016
Sonke Gender Justice: interview on 19 July 2016
Centre for Christian Spirituality: Interview on 20 July 2016
Institute for Healing of Memories: Interview on 27 July 2016

International standards such as the UN Minimum Standards for the Treatment of Prisoners were used for the study. The challenges identified are:
• Offenders are sometimes not permitted to meet service providers.
• Inadequate dedicated space and furniture in correctional centres to run programmes.
• Noise pollution from conflicting programmes.
• Absence of standardised schedules for programmes.
• Poor communication with correctional centre management, especially misunderstanding in scheduled time for visits.
• Poor staffing in correctional centres, which hampers visits to inmates.

The interviewed organisations said that their challenges have been tabled to the head of the DCS. Mr Mathabathe recommended that:
• DCS and management of correctional centres should engage better with NGOs and FBOs.
• Rehabilitation of offenders should be prioritised.
• Management of correctional centres should train officials to cover for absent officials.
 
The Chairperson called on the DCS delegation to respond.

Mr Zach Modise, DCS National Commissioner,  admitted that the general findings of the presentations are known to the DCS. He called on members of his delegation to respond further to the report.

Ms Veliswa Mvandaba, Deputy Commissioner: Social Reintegration, agreed with the Halfway Houses report. She stated that the Realistic Halfway House has been discontinued due to funding. DCS is working on the staffing challenge identified in the report. A key reason why parolees are rejected by their families is poor relationships. To remedy this, parolees are encouraged to visit their families and bond with them.

Mr James Smalberger, Chief Deputy Commissioner: Incarceration and Corrections, welcomed the report. He acknowledged some of the findings, noting that there are many competing activities in correctional facilities which erode proper communication with NGOs and FBOs. Scheduling hitches do occur in correctional facilities in line with their peculiar situation. Accordingly, generalisation should be avoided and engagement with the writers of the report is needed.

Mr Modise restated that the findings are mostly accurate, especially scheduling, communication, and vacancies. There are times when facilities are overwhelmed by NGOs and FBOs, making scheduling difficult. The halfway houses are unsustainable due to budgetary constraints and the DCS intends to return to National Treasury about it.

Discussion
The Chairperson sought clarity on the philosophy behind halfway houses, wondering whether their challenges justify continued funding by the DCS. Should funding them not be the responsibility of the Department of Social Development? Also, what skills qualify staff of the DCS to run these houses? Should these houses not be a community-led project? Also, should idle government funds not be deployed to the project? Is it certain that reintegration of parolees who leave these houses is effective? Would putting parolees on state farms not be more productive? The Chairperson concluded by calling for a rethinking of the philosophy of halfway houses. He suggested a workshop to consider these issues.

Mr Selfe supported the Chairperson’s suggestion of the workshop subject to it being in the broader context of reintegration. He raised several questions: Who decides the admission of inmates into halfway houses? What are the criteria for selection? How many can they accommodate? Given the ineffectiveness of the electronic tagging project, are there not better cost-efficient ways of keeping tabs on parolees? is there data on reoffending rates by inmates who leave halfway houses?

Mr Matiase agreed that the concept of halfway houses is an innovative approach to reintegration of offenders. However, offenders are often victims of social neglect. Accordingly, until something is done about social neglect, halfway houses and even the traditional parole system will be ineffective. Like the Chairperson and Mr Selfe, he asked: What are the study’s findings on the success rate of offenders released from halfway houses and those who did not enter them? What is the accountability mechanism of halfway houses? Is there a service level agreement with the organisers that run them? What are the criteria for selecting inmates of these houses?

Mr Bongo also expressed concern over the criteria for selection of inmates in halfway houses. What can be done about the challenge of understaffing? How employable are ex-inmates? Would it not be effective to deploy them to state farms? He suggested that the DCS could collaborate with the Department of Defence on this issue. He concluded by supporting the concept of halfway houses.

Ms M Mothapo (ANC) asked whether halfway houses employ rehabilitated offenders to demonstrate the effectiveness of their work. She sought clarity on the issue of masculinity, in the houses, as well as the low budget (of 5%) allocated by the DCS to rehabilitation.

Ms Pilane-Majake welcomed the presentations. She sought clarity on the DCS’s service agreement with NGOs and FBOs on halfway houses and the budgetary allocation by the DCS. Why are halfway houses not spread across all the provinces? What are the criteria for selecting NGOs? What is the value of their contributions? Do they serve their own agenda or that of the DCS? Do their visits to correctional centres benefit inmates? She suggested that the Moral Regeneration Movement and the African Charter on Values and Principles of Public Service and Administration should be involved in reintegration programmes.
 
Mr Modise admitted that members’ comments are poignant. At the inception of halfway houses, the DCS took steps to ensure that its mandate is reflected in its agreements with the managers of these houses. It initially planned to roll out the houses in all provinces, with the aim of handing them over to communities because of their unsustainability. He requested the Committee to allow the DCS time to respond to the challenges raised in the reports to avoid a fire brigade response. The DCS is sensitive to the motives of the organisers of halfway houses. Notably, it takes measures to prevent economic abuse or exploitation of offenders and ensures that Halfway house programmes are tailored to the DCS’s goals. These measures are implemented mostly through an in-depth accreditation process.

Mr Modise agreed that a workshop is needed on the concept of halfway houses, subject to funding. He suggested that Mr Mathabathe’s reports should form a key part of this workshop. On understaffing, he said that the organisational structure of the DCS has been reviewed and vacancies are being considered by the executive management.

The Chairperson asked members whether it is wise to saddle the DCS with convening the workshop, given that the reports were commissioned by the Committee.

Ms Pilane-Majake, expressed support for the Chairperson’s proposal, and was tacitly supported by members.

DCS Mid-Year Performance Report
The DCS delegation included:
Mr Zach Modise, National Commissioner
Mr Joseph Katenga, Chief Deputy Commissioner: Strategic Management
Mr Logan Maistry, Deputy Commissioner: IGR
Mr James Smalberger, Chief Deputy Commissioner: Incarceration and Corrections
Mr Piet de Bruin, Director of Pre-Release Resettlement
Ms Veliswa Mvandaba, Deputy Commissioner: Social Reintegration
Mr Nick Ligege, Chief Financial Officer

Mr Joseph Katenga, Chief Deputy Commissioner: Strategic Management, said that the DCS has achieved 62% of its targets for the reporting period, that is 21 of its 34 quarterly targets for 2016. The breakdown was:
Administration – 5 out of 10 targets achieved (50%)
Incarceration – 3 out of 6 targets achieved (50%)
Rehabilitation – 6 out of 8 targets achieved (75%)
Care – 4 out of 4 targets achieved (100%)
Social reintegration 3 out of 6 targets achieved (50%)

The Chief Financial Officer, Mr Nick Ligege, explained that out of the available budget of R10 583 521, expenditure stands at R10 994 billion (50.95%). This expenditure is against a spending plan of R10 637 billion (49.3%), resulting in a R357 million overspending of projected expenditure. The reasons for this over-expenditure include:
• Performance incentives for non-senior management staff;
• Periodic payments to professionals and advisors;
• High cost of goods and services because of fuel, vehicle repairs, and food supplies;
• Interest on rent on land;
• Transfers and subsidies, especially payment of leave gratuity due to service terminations
• Payments for capital assets due to delayed procurement processes of IT equipment

The following measures have been introduced to combat over-expenditure:
• Implementation of measures to cut unnecessary expenditure. Examples are terminating all events except those funded through sponsorships and donations.
• Terminating all events with social elements
• Capping of all official kilometre travelling
• Maximum utilisation of video link and teleconferencing for all meetings and work sessions in head office and regions
• Analysing compensation of employees’ budget line items for cost effectiveness.
• Reviewing all planned infrastructure projects and slow moving projects.
• Embargo on acquisition of machinery and equipment to be extended over 2017 MTEF, and review of procurement systems.

Mr Modise informed the Committee that the DCS’s efficiency is being eroded by budget cuts. Management is engaging with the Minister and Treasury on this issue. However, despite the downscaling of some projects, the DCS will continue executing its critical projects. He pleaded with the Committee to create awareness in Parliament on the impact of budget cuts, adding that drought and escalation of food prices are serious concerns for the DCS.

Discussion
Mr Selfe asked the delegation whether the DCS is adhering to the court’s ruling on the Occupation Specific Dispensation (OSD) matter. He expressed concern on avoidable over-spending such as late advertisement of tenders. He noted that the percentage of inmates who benefit from the care programme is a fraction of the number of inmates.  

Mr Horn restated the concerns he expressed during the last presentation of the DCS first quarter report. These are notably the issue of additional bed spaces, statistics on the parolees who are electronically monitored, and repair of damaged electronic tags. He expressed displeasure at projected over-expenditure and remedial actions for over-expenditure in the light of downsizing measures such as reduction of conference visits and use of video conferencing. What measures are the DCS putting in place to cut expenses? For example, can staff members not travel together for events instead of individually?

Ms Pilane-Majake welcomed the presentation. She justified the payment of performance bonus to staff for their good performance. However, she expressed concern at over spending and sought clarity on high costs of leasing. She supported Mr Horn’s suggestion that staff travel together rather than individually. She asked the DCS why it cannot buy its own buildings. Other questions are: Does the monitoring of inmates in correctional centres violate their privacy? Could cost-cutting measures not be improved?

Mr Modise explained that measures are being taken to implement the court’s ruling in the OSD issue. A status report will be provided on this. He outlined ongoing work at some facilities and stated that Mr Smalberger will explain further. The DCS has just appointed six regional coordinators to work on maintenance and building of additional facilities. They will also work in partnership with the Department of Works to ensure that tenders and bids are timeously executed.

On over spending, Mr Modise admitted that the DCS’s targets have not always been realistic, measurable, and time bound. He admitted that challenges are being encountered in the electronic tagging project. On cost-cutting measures, officials travel together as much as possible unless on monitoring missions. Use of video conferencing is being increased.

Mr Modise stated that the last audit report compels the DCS to maintain and improve its monitoring and evaluation. It is taking measures to reduce over spending. Only levels 2-12 staff will get performance bonuses. Levels 13 and above will not get bonuses unless a clean audit is achieved in the next review.

Mr Smalberger explained that the indicators for care are not restricted to inmates who attend church services. He stated that 435 bed spaces need to be created in new facilities. As indicated in the 1st Quarter Report of 2 November 2016, the evaluation phase of the tender for bed spaces is underway after tenders were advertised on 23 September 2016. From engagements with the Department of Works, the contractors will be on site early next year as a step towards meeting the overall target of 925 bed spaces. The first phase of 604 beds will be delivered by the end of this year. The second phase will be completed next year. Regarding CCTV cameras in correctional centres, the DCS has received legal opinions on their infringement of privacy rights and will provide feedback on these opinions.

Ms Mvandaba said that 776 persons are currently under electronic monitoring. The indicator is for the number of persons under monitoring per month. Since April, 1182 persons have been placed under electronic tags. 70 damaged tags have been sent for repair. 100 damaged and faulty devices have been received back from offenders. The average battery life of these tags is around two years. The DCS is in the process of replacing the batteries. Sanctions have been imposed for deliberate damage of tags, while criminal proceedings and revoke of paroles have been instituted for deliberate loss of tags.

The Chairperson commended the DCS for making efforts to address the concerns expressed by members and adjourned the meeting at 11:55 am.

 

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