Draft White Paper on Corrections in South Africa: hearings

Correctional Services

03 February 2004
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Meeting Summary

A summary of this committee meeting is not yet available.

Meeting report

3 February 2004


Mr J N Mashimbye

Documents handed out:

Draft White Paper on Corrections in South Africa
Jacques Joubert and Joe King submission
Bloemfontein Correctional Contracts (Pty) Limited submission
Centre for Conflict Resolution submission
Centre for the Study of Violence and Reconciliation submission
South African Custodial Services submission
Institute for Security Studies submission
NICRO Submission
Civil Society Prison Reform Initiative Submission



The Public Hearing was attended by members of the Department of Correctional Services, Bloemfontein Correctional Contracts, Centre for Conflict Resolution, Prison Broadcasting Network, Centre for the Study of Violence and Reconciliation and NICRO. The overriding concerns were the scant policy information on a resolution of the problem of prison gangs and the challenge of HIV/AIDS, the problem of overcrowding and the rehabilitation of prisoners.

The opening address by the Chair included his expression of appreciation for the presence of the organisations at the Hearing which was a platform for participants to voice their opinions and that their right to express their views that originated from differing individual mindframes would not be trampled on. The Chair said that he would not resign from his post until the policy (White Paper) was perfect.

Ms Jenny Schreiner, Deputy Commissioner: Department of Correctional Services, spoke of the recent Stakeholders Workstation where a gap analysis in the White Paper of 1994 was studied and the policy issues of 1998 were discussed to formulate a progress report on the development of the present Draft White Paper on Corrections in South Africa. She said that that report would be submitted to the Committee in two weeks' time.

Bloemfontein Correctional Contracts submission
Mr Venter of Global Solutions, accompanied by Mr Parker, presented on behalf of Bloemfontein Correctional Contracts. Mr Venter asked that any views expressed should be seen as a contribution rather than criticism towards the creation of "Excellence in Corrections" in South Africa.

A few of the comments that were submitted were that the Department should consider the admittance of individual offenders to an assessment centre where the inmate received a proper profile and would then be allocated to the correct facility. Mr Venter commented on Chapter One on the challenge of HIV/AIDS and said that no elaboration or policy had been revealed in the Draft White Paper on how to address that problem. The organisation disagreed with the principle that the accommodation and feeding of awaiting trial detainees should be the responsibility of the Department of Justice. They proposed that rather than shifting budgets between departments that the Government address that concern holistically.

Mr D Bloem (ANC) asked Mr Venter to explain what he had meant when he said that the issue of HIV/AIDS had not been sufficiently addressed. He also asked what activities the inmates of the Mangaung Maximum Security Prison were engaged in during their twelve-hour sessions outside and ten hours inside the prison.

Mr Venter said that that issue had not been addressed in the White Paper except for the few words mentioned about the "challenge of HIV/AIDS for the Department." He continued that the inmates were kept busy by participating in sports, arts and cultural programmes, vocational lessons as well as schooling.

Ms E Ngaleka (ANC) commented that she believed that the accommodation and feeding of awaiting trial prisoners should be the responsibility of the Joint Justice System. She asked if the transfer of skills was taking place in the Black Economic Empowerment Programme.

Mr Venter replied that there was a supervisory committee that audited the percentage of skills transfer annually. Mr Parker, the Director from Murray and Roberts overseeing the Mangaung Maximum Security Prison in Bloemfontein, added that short-term pilot projects were pointless in terms of promoting skills. Long-term programmes where people could continue developing their skills were needed where labourers were ensured of their future wellbeing.

Centre for Conflict Resolution submission
Mr Chris Giffard, senior researcher at Centre for Conflict Resolution based at the University of Cape Town presented the submission. The main comment he made that fuelled discussion was that Paragraph 4.4.1 contained a contradiction where on the one hand it stated that rehabilitation must be the reason for sentencing and on the other, that "rehabilitation cannot be imposed on one. It is a process that must become part of the person's choices if it is to be successful." Mr Giffard also said that there was inadequate discussion on the negative impact of gangsterism in prisons and that the Department should have a strategy on how to address the serious problem of prison gangs.

Mr M Dyani (ANC) asked for an explanation of the apparent contradiction in the Rehabilitation section.

Mr Giffard reiterated that at first in this section, there appears to be no choice but that prisoners have to be rehabilitated. Then later in that section, it states that individual prisoners had the right to choose to be rehabilitated.

The Chair said that he did not see a contradiction in this. It was the responsibility and the obligation of the state to offer rehabilitation although the prisoner could refuse this. Mr Bloem (ANC) agreed. Mr Dyani said that it was really a dilemma and not a contradiction.

Prison Broadcasting Network Submission
Mr Marius Boaden, founder and CEO of the Prison Broadcasting Network, presented. He focus was on the role that the media played in prisons such as the way violence and gangsterism was glamourised in films and that advertisements on condomising provided passports for inmates to sleep together. Mr Boaden continued to talk about a proposal to alleviate the negative role of the media. However the Chair intervened and said that that the public hearings was not the platform for this discussion and he had failed to submit any comments pertaining to the White Paper. The Chair extended an invitation to Mr Boaden to see him personally so that they could discuss that matter further.

Centre for the Study of Violence and Reconciliation submission
Ms Amanda Dissel said that the Draft White Paper was a very honest and impressive document. Specific comments made were the shared concern (as with Giffard) of Paragraph 4.4.1 that dealt with rehabilitation being the key reason for sentencing. She commented on the shifting of responsibility of awaiting trial prisoners to the Justice Department and stated that all Government departments should take responsibility for developing a solution to that problem. Ms Dissel said that although the Draft White Paper spoke of the implementation of a non-militaristic culture, the recently introduced uniforms and insignia of the Department was still militaristic. She voiced her concern and disagreed with the Department's suggestion to extradite foreigners so that they could serve their sentences in their country of origin.

Mr M Booi (ANC) asked what programme could be put into place to alleviate gangsterism.

Mr N Fihla (ANC) replied that gangsters should be put in a different sector in the prison and that first time offenders and the youth should definitely be separated from them as the youth are easily influenced.

The Chair said that the CSVR submission indicated that Members of Parliament should not alone be privy to discuss how the Department should implement the White Paper but that as many stakeholders should be present at a public hearing.

In reply to Mr Bloem wanting to know more about the military culture that she had spoken of, Ms Dissel said that the uniforms were still khaki in colour (very militaristic) and that in some prisons, correctional service members were still greeting each other according to their ranks.

Commissioner Bongani (Correctional Services) asked Dissel jokingly what colour she would prefer their uniforms to be.

Ms Ngaleka asked if Ms Dissel's view on illegal immigrants was biased.

Ms Dissel replied that if foreign nationals were extradited to their land of origin they might not have the opportunity for rehabilitation as is stated in the Draft White Paper.

Ms Ngaleka said that overcrowding in prisons was a dominant concern and that foreign nationals should be sent home because the matter at hand should be the welfare of South African prisoners.

Ms Dissel replied that that was a complex issue.

Civil Society Prison Reform Initiative Submission
Deputy Executive Director of NICRO, Mr Lukas Muntingh, presented the submission. He said that the Draft White Paper was inaccessible and should be revised into a plain language version for public access. He said that it was a "high level visionary document" that merely raised issues without thorough discussion. Mr Muntingh said that there was inadequate work on how the Department intended to deal with prison gangs. Further, there were no financial projections nor projections of prisoner population for the next twenty years so that it could be determined whether the principles put forward were feasible or not.

Mr Bloem said that he hoped that the Department would respond to the issues raised.

Mr Fihla said that the views expressed should not be seen as criticism but as a means to improve on the Draft White Paper.

South African Custodial Services submission
Mr S Korabie said that the Department of Correctional Services was to be commended on the overall excellence of the White Paper, especially for its emphasis on the rehabilitation of inmates and the recognition that staff and society must share in the responsibility of rehabilitation. Issues of primary concern included: the overpopulation of prisons; the lack of properly trained staff; the lack of suitable facilities ensuring the humane care of inmates; the lack of rehabilitative resources enabling inmates to positively reintegrate back into society; the inability to mobilize society in assisting in the reintegration process; and budgetary constraints. The Department was urged to engage the Private Sector in delivering those services not directly under its jurisdiction, thereby reducing costs and increasing efficiency. The achievements of South African Custodial Services' private correctional facility (Kutama Sinthumule Maximum Security Prison) were outlined. (See attached document for further information relating to this presentation).

Mr M Booi (ANC) expressed his concern with focusing only on management and ignoring the important role of other stakeholders, as successful rehabilitation necessitated the involvement of all stakeholders. He questioned whether prisoners might also be included in the Transformation Process. Mr Booi also conveyed his appreciation of the budgetary concerns raised in Mr Korabie's presentation. He asked Mr Korabie for suggestions as to how the Department could use its limited resources most effectively.

Mr N Fihla (ANC) stated that he was impressed by what had been achieved at Kutama Sinthumule. He acknowledged the problem of overcrowding in South African prisons and asserted that, for this reason, it was impossible for South Africa to attain the same prison standards as European countries, such as Denmark. Nevertheless, he felt that the Department could learn from such examples abroad and use that which applied to the South African context.

Chairperson Mashimbye mentioned that the Department had faced many challenges in the last ten years, often making their work less than ideal. For this reason, it was easy for NGOs to organise themselves and obtain funding. Nevertheless, NGOs had difficulty adapting to changing needs as South Africa moved from the era of democracy building to the era of consolidation. While the Department had improved significantly over the last ten years, it also needed to adapt to the changing situation and the new challenges that this entailed. Similarly, NGOs with poor leadership had been unable to transform and confront changing needs. He stressed that it was the responsibility of businesses and NGOs to translate the policy statements of politicians into practical solutions that addressed current problems. While the Department needed to adapt to changing circumstances, even when unready to do so, people needed to be realistic in understanding the inherent limitations of government policy. The inability to understand policy made organisations unable to define their own role, causing them to be more destructive than productive. Therefore, it was essential for the Department and all other stakeholders to clearly define their own role within the Corrections process.

Mr Korabie contended that, since 1994, the debate within Corrections had been the rehabilitation of inmates and that this will undoubtedly be the debate for many years to come. Effective management of the rehabilitation process was essential if the Department was to move forward. In terms of finances, Mr Korabie asserted that the strategic objectives of the Department needed to inform the budget, as opposed to the budget dictating the objectives. He also stated that prisons should be designed to meet the challenges facing the Department, while at the same time being realistic about what could be attained in the South African context. Although lack of staff and overpopulation were often cited as reasons for prison failure, these challenges could be overcome with proper prison management. He reiterated the various achievements of Kutama Sinthumule as a case in point.

Mr G Oosthuizen (ANC) addressed Mr Korabie's discussion of the ¨culture¨ of the prison workforce. He referred to the fact that staff at Kutama Sinthumule had been trained to run the prison effectively in only six weeks and expressed his doubt that the same standards could be achieved so easily in retraining staff in established prisons with a military-style approach to corrections. Therefore, while it was good to set high standards, it was also important to be realistic about what could actually be accomplished. Mr Oosthuizen also felt it was impossible for the strategic objectives to determine the budget, as no department ever received all the funds it desired.

The Chair noted that time was limited and, therefore, it was not possible to allow everyone to speak.

Mr Korabie admitted that it was impossible to compare most South African prisons with high-tech prisons and thus, South African prisons should not be expected to change overnight. Nevertheless, it was impractical to discuss rehabilitation without setting certain standards to which the debate could be ¨anchored.¨

The Chair thanked Mr Korabie for his many useful suggestions. He stated that organisations within society needed to assist the Department in turning the White Paper's policy statements into a workable reality. This required that organisations make constructive suggestions to the Department.

Advocate Joubert and Mr King's submission
The importance of recognizing the connection between substance addiction and criminal behaviour was stressed. It was therefore recommended that drug treatment programs be integrated into the process of rehabilitation. Research supporting the importance of treatment as a means of deterring future drug use and criminal behaviour was cited. Mr King recounted his personal life story of substance abuse and crime. He claimed that he was only able to change his criminal behaviour after realising that his problems stemmed from drug addiction. (See attached document for further information relating to this presentation).

The Chair thanked Adv. Joubert and Mr King. He stated that, of the many kinds of people in society, he was always pleased to meet those who desired to help others by raising consciousness of common problems.

Mr D Bloem (ANC) mentioned that he was impressed by Mr King's life story and asked him to share his ¨recipe¨ for success.

Mr King said that his success was based on the daily application of the HOW (Honesty Open-Mindedness Willingness) Program. This program provided him with the ¨ingredients¨ necessary to change his life through the continued process of increasing self-awareness and self-realisation. He reemphasized that addiction is a treatable disease.

Ms J Schreiner (Chief Deputy Commissioner of the Department of Correctional Services) thanked Mr King for demonstrating the way in which Corrections affected both individuals and societies. She claimed that the input of ex-offenders was an invaluable resource for the Department. She agreed that rehabilitation must start during detention and continue through the parole period. She suggested that ex-offenders be part of the rehabilitation process during both the detention and parole periods.

Institute for Security Studies: Presentation Summary
Mr M Sekhonyane presented his organisation's submission. The Institute for Security Studies supported the Department's move away from ¨warehousing¨ prisoners to rehabilitating them and noted that this move would necessitate the retraining of staff. There was concern over budgetary allocations, as more money was spent on incarceration and management than on rehabilitation. Overcrowding was predicted to continue until the Integrated Justice System harmonised performance indicators and police, prosecutors, and magistrates found alternative punishments for lesser crimes. It was argued that building new prisons to defuse overcrowding was not the best means of remedying the problem. The lengthy detention of Awaiting Trial Prisoners and institutional corruption were also seen as problematic. (See submission).

Chairperson Mashimbye apologised for any misunderstanding caused by his previous statements relating to Mr Korabie's presentation. He assured Mr Korabie that he was speaking in general terms and that his statements were not directed at him personally. He recognised that the meeting was running behind schedule and asked Members to kindly sit through the last two presentations. He then invited NICRO to present their submission.

NICRO submission
Ms. K Mpuang presented the submission. The Department was commended on their efforts to transform the corrections process and the challenge of getting other stakeholders to embrace the paradigm shift was noted, as was the importance of others' involvement as a means of augmenting the work of Correctional Services. Involving other Government Departments in the corrections process was recommended, although difficulties in doing so were acknowledged. It was argued that corrections must take place within a loving environment and that prisoners must make the conscious choice to be rehabilitated. To be most effective, rehabilitation programs should be designed to meet the individual needs of prisoners, thereby increasing their relevancy for each individual. Concern was placed on offenders' reintegration back into society after their detention period. It was recommended that families and communities play an integral role in the reintegration of corrected individuals. It was suggested that programs of community involvement be designed specifically for long-term prisoners who will never have the opportunity for reintegration. Emphasis was placed on correctional facilities as an important means of stopping the cycle of crime and violence.

The Chair thanked Ms. Mpuang for her presentation and apologised once again for the time constraints. He said that he liked the way she referred to prisons as ¨correctional facilities.¨

Mr Bloem asked for clarification on Ms. Mpuang's statement relating to long-term prisoners. He also wanted to know what factors impeded family and community members' involvement in the rehabilitation process and how the stigma against ex-offenders could be changed.

Ms. Mpuang replied that communities were more likely to get involved in the rehabilitation process when they understood the importance of rehabilitation for society, especially in terms of future crime prevention. Along these lines, she stressed that the way in which society viewed punishment affected their willingness to participate in the rehabilitation process. In terms of long-term prisoners, Ms. Mpuang argued that they must be given reasons to value their lives, even though they will not have the opportunity for reintegration. Thus, programs should be designed specifically for such individuals, with the intention of making their lives meaningful and providing them with a sense of community.

Ms. Schreiner acknowledged the difficulties in soliciting the help of other departments. She mentioned that inter-department dialogue had increased in recent years, thereby paving the way for major breakthroughs in social crime prevention.

Ms B Vigeland (Spiritual Worker at Pollsmoor Prison) Submission
Ms B Vigeland argued that authorities were incapable of affecting permanent change because crime was linked to sin and sin was inside all humans. Thus, crime was everywhere, even within those involved in the corrections process, and ¨surface work¨ could not attack the root of all crime. Eliminating crime, therefore, necessitated attacking sin. And, since sin was a spiritual power, the only way to eradicate sin was to rehabilitate individuals with the word of God.

The Chair commented that Ms Vigeland's presentation provided the appropriate note on which to end the meeting, since spiritual emptiness lead to Armageddon. He agreed that many individuals left prison better persons due to having experienced a spiritual awakening. Mr Fender had also mentioned the importance of religion to the rehabilitation process. The Chair agreed on the importance of providing prisoners with the opportunity to embrace spirituality in its many forms.

Mr Fihla asked for clarification on Ms Vigeland's reference to abortion.

Ms Vigeland asserted that both premarital sex and abortion were sins.

Mr Bloem appealed to the Chair on a matter of principle. He claimed that Ms. Vigeland's submission was not dealing with the stated purpose of the Hearing, to discuss issues raised in the White Paper. He reminded the Chair that he had previously called to order another speaker whose submission failed to directly address issues into the White Paper and requested that the same standards be applied to all subsequent speakers.

The Chair recognised that a difficult issue was being dealt with. He noted that when Mr Fender spoke about religious care he did so in the context of other issues that he was addressing. He admitted that Ms Vigeland had indulged on the topic of religion in much more detail and that, perhaps, Mr Bloem would have preferred more attention be paid to the specifics of the White Paper. The Chair thanked everyone for attending, especially those Members of Parliament who had stayed for the entire day. He expressed his hope that all would be able to attend the Hearings on the following day.

The meeting was adjourned.


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