Department of Correctional Services Budget: briefing

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Meeting Summary

A summary of this committee meeting is not yet available.

Meeting report


23 June 2004

Chairperson: Kgoshi Mokoena (ANC)

Documents handed out:
Department of Correctional Services (DCS) presentation
DCS financial yearplan
DCS Budget Process
DCS Strategic Plan presentation

The Department of Correctional Services presented their strategic plan and budget for 2004/05 which aimed at "Gearing the DCS for Rehabilitation". Both the Deputy Minister and the National Commissioner were present. The Committee raised a variety of issues for the Department to comment on such as skill-building of prisoners, prison overcrowding, gangsterism and the morale of prison officials.

Introduction by Deputy Minister
The Deputy Minister, Ms Cheryl Gillward, spoke about the budget being used to transform the nature of the department's work to achieve the aim of rehabilitation as well as the correction of the imprisoned individual. Any expenditure would have to meet the objective.

Department presentation
The Department of Correctional Services (DCS), represented by the Commissioner Mr L Mti as well as the Chief Financial Officer (CFO) Mr N Tshivhase, made a two-part presentation. The first part was structured to provide the Committee with a new vision and mission for the year, which would be implemented through the analysis of new plans as well as through confrontation with potential challenges for the years 2004 and 2005. The second portion of the presentation dealt with the various figures pertaining to the budget allocation as well as new policy frameworks aimed at "Gearing the DCS for Rehabilitation" through the alignment of policies with the White Paper as well as a general upgrading of staff, facilities and attitudes surrounding correctional supervision.

Mr Shiceka (ANC) (Gauteng) began by suggesting that the Committee and the DCS create a partnership in aid of transformation. He also suggested that they should engage with the Unions to create jobs within the field of correctional supervision. His first question referred to the DCS policy and whether it was concerned with the skill-building of prisoners so that when they left prison they would be employable. His second question referred to the undesired recruitment of prisoners into gangs, once they had completed their prison terms, and how the DCS proposes to deal with this issue. His final question focused on prison facilities and whether these facilities catered for disabled persons as well as the needs of prisoners and wardens respectively.

Ms P Hollander (ANC) (Northern Cape) focused on the Cost Drivers as listed in the presentation, which indicated that there was no increase in employment of previous offenders. However, recruitment indicated that there should be and she felt that these figures did not add up. Furthermore, Ms Hollander queried how it was possible that prisoners were able to cross from gang to gang when they were supposed to be kept from coming into contact with these prisoners. Regarding moral regeneration, she asked if there were counsellors present within the prisons to offer moral and emotional support to the prisoners prior to their reintroduction into society.

Mr J Le Roux (DA) (Eastern Cape) asked whether it was possible to succeed in curbing crime when the problem of prison overcrowding remained. He also asked why the DCS needed new offices. He asked whether DCS staff numbers would be able to cope with the increasing numbers of prisoners in the future.

Mr F Adams (NNP) (Western Cape) asked whether there were timeframes for the new mission and vision of the department. He mentioned further that there was a serious loss of morale in the prisons as prison staff were underpaid and worked in some of the most hostile and poorly maintained conditions imaginable. He asked if there was likely to be an increase in pay or an upgrade in prison facilities.

Mr M Mzizi (IFP) (Gauteng) asked the Commissioner how young prisoners were able to gain membership of older gangs, and how the authorities determined where younger prisoners would be placed within the prisons. He queried who was responsible for the costs incurred by an awaiting-trial prisoner such as legal bills.

The Commissioner responded in the order in which the questions were asked. In terms of the skills building of prisoners he stated that there remained room for improvement and that more could be done in this regard. Furthermore, he mentioned that there was not much financial assistance to the prisoner once he left prison. However, he stated that this could be easily rectified.

On gangsterism, the Commissioner indicated that this matter should be contextualised. He reminded the Committee that gangs originated outside the prison walls and spread to within the prisons, and that they should not forget that the apartheid regime condoned gang activity and used it as a means for the prisoners to run the prisons themselves, in so doing cutting down on administration costs. However, the Commissioner said that there would be no room for gangsters under the new dispensation. To this he added that, within the present and past contexts, prisoners often engaged with prison officials as to which prisoner would go where.

In terms of overcrowding, the Commissioner stipulated that private and public prison institutions would have to work together to deal with this. In terms of facilities for the disabled as well as prison officials, he said that the DCS was almost complete with its endeavours to upgrade these facilities.

In response to Ms Hollander's question, the Commissioner admitted that her analysis was correct. However he reminded her that in the UK the ratio of prison official to prisoner was a mere 1:8 whereas in South Africa the ratio stood at 1:15. He said that South Africa had the largest prisoner population in the world and that the system could therefore not comply with international standards.

In response to Mr Adams, the Commissioner said that the mission and vision could not possibly be given a timeframe as they represented a direction or an ultimate goal which the department would work towards. He said that studies showed that South Africa presently had the best correctional facilities on the continent, but they were still hoping to achieve greater international recognition. Furthermore, he said that the overcrowding issue was very difficult to address and it would not be possible to place it at the top of the priority list.

On the issue of awaiting trial detainees and the legal costs which they incurred, the Commissioner stated that the expenses would rest on them or their family's shoulders. Where the new DCS offices were concerned, the Commissioner said that the building which they presently resided in was bombed in 1985 and foundational instability was only recently discovered. It was therefore hazardous to remain in the building.

Where the morale of prison officials was concerned, the Commissioner admitted that it was low, with an estimated 10 suicides nationwide in the last year. He mentioned that a proposal for salary increases had been put forward.

In terms of prisoner placement, the Commissioner stated that a new programme was in place which would correctly identify each and every prisoner according to age, sex and race. This has been implemented due to past discrepancies with false identifications being issued to prison officials so that the prisoner could be placed in a more sought after cell. For this reason, he said that young prisoners had often been placed with older ones.

Mr Z Ntuli (ANC) (Kwazulu-Natal) asked why prisoners were often imprisoned outside their communal jurisdiction; in other words, they were often imprisoned far away from where they were apprehended.

Mr B Mkhalipi (ANC) (Mpumalanga) asked if the department had started a strategic programme which focused on budget allocations from a provincial standpoint. He also asked to what extent poverty and deprivation had contributed to crime increases.

Mr A Moseki (ANC) (North West) asked, within the context of prisoner demographics, what the general social background of the offenders was.

Ms P Hollander asked why juvenile offenders were placed in adult prisons and whether there were special programmes for them. She mentioned that she had visited a prison and saw female prisoners with their children in the cells. She asked if prisons had the facilities to cater for these mothers and their children. Furthermore, she questioned whether there were mediation facilities for the relationship between correctional services and the unions.

Mr F Adams asked if the DCS had provided any counselling services for prison officials and their families when they reached an age where they would have to consider retirement. He also asked if anything would be done to increase prison officials' morale.

The Commissioner responded that awaiting-trial detainees were most often prosecuted within their areas of communal jurisdiction. However, some prisoners could often not be tried within their communities due to delays in court proceedings and reasons which were beyond the department's control. He also stated that high-risk prisoners could only be sent to areas that could legally convict them.

Where provincial allocations were concerned, the Commissioner stated that the department could outline them quite easily but that there was no programme that dealt with this yet. He admitted that poverty and deprivation had contributed to crime, but were not major factors. In terms of social backgrounds, he said that the majority of youth offenders came from depressing and desolate social backgrounds where crime had become a way of life. He stated that it was the duty of the Department of Social Development and the Department of Education to supply areas of safety for youth offenders as well as for the children of offenders themselves.

In terms of mediation facilities for correctional services and unions, the Commissioner stated that there was a structure within the department that had already been established to handle this issue.

In terms of improving the plight of prison officials, the Commissioner felt that jobs within DCS were provided to those who saw it as a calling and nothing else. He said that these jobs were neither glamorous nor well paid. However, they were never meant to be. He said that salary increases would probably occur but would not be fundamental.

The Commissioner apologised for not answering all the questions, as there was inadequate time.

The meeting was adjourned.


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