Social Reintegration Policy; Offender Rehabilitation Path & Offender Skills Development Plan: briefing

Committee: Correctional Services

Date of Meeting: 22 Aug 2006

Summary

No summary available for this committee meeting.


Minutes

CORRECTIONAL SERVICES PORTFOLIO COMMITTEE
22 August 2006
SOCIAL REINTEGRATION POLICY; OFFENDER REHABILITATION PATH AND OFFENDER SKILLS DEVELOPMENT PLAN: DEPARTMENT BRIEFING


Chairperson: Mr D Bloem (ANC)

Documents handed out:
The Offender Rehabilitation Path (PowerPoint Presentation)
Position Paper on Social Reintegration (PowerPoint Presentation)
Programme: Gardening Services (not presented)
Modeling of Community Service Programme (not presented)

SUMMARY

The Department of Correctional Services briefed the Committee on its social reintegration policy and the offender rehabilitation path. Members appeared to be impressed with the programmes but had concerns around the Department’s capacity to implement it. Concerns centred on the recruitment of scarce skills and the need for alternative sentencing that would ensure that minor crimes were not punished with prison sentences. Members were reassured that offenders would not be a given a choice as far as participation in the programmes was concerned.

MINUTES
Chairperson’s opening remarks

Mr Bloem informed the Department of Correctional Services’ (DCS) representatives that the Committee had just returned from an oversight visit to the Eastern Cape where they saw that many workshops at St Alban’s Correctional Facility were not being utilised. The Committee was very interested in hearing what the Department’s policy on social reintegration was, as well as in finding out what the rehabilitation path involved.

He informed Members that he had received an invitation from Mr Themba Godi (PAC), Chairperson of the Standing Committee on Public Accounts (SCOPA) for Members of the Committee to attend the SCOPA review of the 2004/2005 annual report of the Department of Correctional Services (Public Hearings), which was to take place the following day.

The invitation read:
“The annual report of the Department of Correctional Services has been referred to the Standing Committee on Public Accounts for review in terms of standing rule 206 of the National Assembly. On Wednesday 23 August 2006 in Parliament, SCOPA plans to consider the report in detail, specifically financial statements and the report of the Auditor General…You are cordially invited to attend the briefing session by the Auditor General on the above mentioned report on Tuesday 22 August 2006…where issues highlighted in the report would be discussed and clarified. We would like to encourage the Portfolio Committee to attend the briefing session to foster a mutual understanding of the issues hampering the Department of Correctional Services…”.

Offender Rehabilitation Path Presentation by Department of Correctional Services
The Department of Correctional Services’ delegation comprised Mr Teboho Motseki (Chief Deputy Commissioner: Corrections), Ms Jabu Sishuba (Chief Deputy Commissioner: Care and Development) and Ms Sharon Kunene (Deputy Commissioner: Social Reintegration).

Ms Sishuba explained that the Offender Rehabilitation Path (ORP) put the ideals of the White Paper into action and was a process that tracked an offender’s entry into a facility up until his or her release. It consisted of 9 phases that were accompanied by regular assessments. Societal involvement and a multi disciplinary approach that would enhance teamwork featured as two of the benefits attached to this programme. Although much progress had been made the programme faced challenges such as limited resources and the high turnover associated with scarce skills.

Social Reintegration Policy Presentation
Mr Motseki presented the Department’s position paper on social reintegration. Social Reintegration was aimed at preparing offenders to successfully re-enter their communities and not repeat their offending behaviour and a five-phased strategy. The presentation detailed what had informed the reasoning behind the review of the policy, the history of non-custodial sentencing as well as the new policy framework. The programme would be delivered using the Department’s own resources and fostering partnerships with other role players. To date the position paper had been completed, existing staff competencies had been audited, the programmes have been integrated into the Offender Rehabilitation Path (ORP) and had been presented to magistrates.

Discussion

Mr J Selfe (DA) said that the Department’s plans were very exciting. He also believed that if offenders are to be incarcerated, Department needed to have a programme in place to ensure that when they emerged from correctional facilities they were fully rehabilitated. He agreed with the Chairperson that rehabilitation programmes should be compulsory for all offenders. He suggested that maybe the law should make participation in programmes aimed at development and corrective behaviour obligatory for all offenders. There should be an agreement between Department and offenders ensuring that offenders enjoyed no benefits or be eligible for parole until all facets of their rehabilitation programmes had been complied with.

The Chairperson questioned whether the programmes formed part of a new approach. He said that the need for such programmes was contained in the Correctional Services Act (2004) under the general principles of corrections, which read that:

“…in addition to the obligations which applied to all prisoners every sentenced prisoner must participate in the assessment process and the design and implementation of any development plan or programme …perform any labour which is related to any development programme or which generally is designed to foster habits in industry unless a medical officer or psychologist certifies in writing that he or she was physically or mentally unfit to perform any such labour”.

According to the Act participation was thus compulsory. There was no need to draft new rules and regulations, merely a need to implement the ones already in existence.

Ms Sishuba said that the Department was aware of the provision of the Act as far as rehabilitation and reintegration programmes were concerned. It took time for the Act to be promulgated. She explained that for any legislation or policy one needed guidelines like the ORP, which formed part of the practical steps the Department were taking to implement the legislation. The White Paper had been reviewed to ensure that it too was in line with the legislation. She agreed that the legislation was in place and that it was only a matter of implementing it. Every correctional official should understand how it should be implemented and there was a need for a clear guideline. The Department hoped that the ORP would serve as such a step-by-step guideline.

Ms Sishuba informed the Committee during a session on human rights at Pollsmoor prison an offender had commented that they were left out when new approaches were introduced. Offenders wanted to be kept informed. Offenders would not be given a choice but would be informed of the route rehabilitation and reintegration programmes would take. They would sign a contract at every stage of the ORP so as to indicate that they had agreed to the programme. Rehabilitation would only work if it were a process offenders embraced. She added that in the past there had been a tendency to forget the offences of high profile professional offenders and emphasised that this programme aimed to address the offending behaviour. It would be “the major subject” offenders would need to pass.

Mr Selfe wondered whether the Department had the capacity to implement the various programmes they planned. He mentioned that he had met a case officer at a correctional facility in Pretoria who worked in the courtyard because there was no office space. He felt that the ideas were very good but was concerned that, due to the magnitude of the problems the Department faced, there might be skill and space constraints.

Ms Sishuba realised that the facilities were not conducive to the Department’s rehabilitation ideals and reminded the Committee that the correctional facilities were never built to facilitate the rehabilitation of offenders. The Department was looking at it as it was in the process of implementing the White Paper, the Act and the Constitution. The Department would have to be creative with how they used the resources at their disposal. Measures could be put in place so that space could be used for multiple functions.

Mr Selfe said that he appreciated that posts had been identified and that money was being sought to implement the plans but was concerned about the fact that there were already many vacant posts that the Department could not manage to fill despite them having been provided for in the budget.

Ms S Chikunga (ANC) was also impressed by the Department’s rehabilitation and reintegration programmes but shared Mr Selfe’s concern about whether the Department had the resources – financial, material and human – to implement them. She wondered whether the kind of skills necessary to implement the programmes could be made part of training colleges’ curricula. Officials who had completed their training would then already be aware of the programmes.

Ms Sishuba said that at a recent budget committee meeting the Department’s many vacant posts (which were funded) had been raised. It was a challenge to fill these posts. The speed with which the recruitment process took place was a challenge. The Department’s Corporate Services unit had put a strategy in place for filling the posts as fast as possible. There were many vacancies for scarce skills and the Department could not afford such vacancies when it was limited in terms of resources.

The greatest challenge in terms of implementation would be the paradigm shift officers would have to make. The legislation already made provision for the policies. Implementation and compliance with the legislation would have to be monitored. She added that training would also be needed.

Since the latter part of 2005 all new recruits were being trained in the programme. The Commissioner had issued a directive that the Chief Deputy Commissioners and their teams should attend an ORP orientation session. All the relevant aspects would be presented. She said that the biggest challenge was ensuring that new recruits received support and mentoring during their internships. This would ensure that they did not use what they had received in theory.

Ms Chikunga wondered whether, in the light of the Department’s difficulties with scarce skills, staff shortages and overcrowding, the programmes the delegation had presented were the best ones selected from many others that had been considered.

Mr Motseki explained that the Department had tried to determine who the authority in terms of social reintegration was. They researched international protocols and Zimbabwe emerged as a leading voice in terms of alternative sentencing. In addition to the work in their own country they also did work for the United Nations. The Department had done much research and tried to apply what they had found to local conditions. He assured Members that the Department had done a lot of work to determine what international norms and best practice were.

Ms Chikunga was pleased that community structures would be involved in the social reintegration programme. She advised the Department to make use of constituency offices as well as Members of Parliament. The Department could make presentations to different constituencies and political parties’ caucuses.

Mr Motseki explained that the Department had identified organisations it would approach in order to find out in what form they would design a community service programme. He said that if constituency offices could play a role in these designs, agreements could be entered into. The Department would be willing to meet with constituency offices and address caucuses to discuss what the Department’s expectations would be if it were to delegate some of the functions related to community corrections.

Ms Chikunga responded that the Department already had a structure in mind for the shape that community involvement would take. She suggested that constituency offices were conveniently situated to orientate the structures. Constituency offices would then also be able to keep up to date on progress being made.

Mr Motseki said that the Department appreciated the offer of assistance from constituency offices. The Department was trying to develop standardised presentations that could be presented across the country that would also address the different concerns of the different role players.

Mr N Fihla (ANC) noted that the prison population was at its highest in 2003, and that 2003 and that 2004 showed the highest number of offenders taking part in correctional supervision and parole programmes. The prison population decreased dramatically after 2003. He wondered whether this drop in the numbers could be attributed to the special remissions. He pointed out that one would expect that a decrease in the prison population would be accompanied by an increase in participation in correctional and parole supervision.

Ms Sharon Kunene (Deputy Commissioner: Social Reintegration) confirmed that the Special Remissions was the biggest reason for the decrease in the prison population. The fact that the level of parolees was not so high was due in part to the fact that new members had been elected to the Correctional Supervision Parole Boards. They were members of the public and needed to be made familiar with the corrections through training programmes, which affected the process flow. This contributed to the fact that there were so few parolees. The system was functioning better now and she predicted that there would be more parolees in future.

Mr Fihla sought clarity on what the Department meant by the Community Service Programme’s activities having to be related to the nature of the crimes that had been committed.

Ms Kunene explained that it was important that the programme an offender was assigned to would best meet his or her rehabilitation needs. It would have to address the offending behaviour as well as ensure that the offender contributed to the community whilst taking care that the offender was not put in an environment where he or she would be tempted to repeat the offending behaviour (e.g. in cases involving child molestation).

Mr Fihla wondered what the difference between the functions of the comprehensive assessment team and the work of the case review teams were. These two teams appeared to be very similar.

Ms Sishuba explained that the comprehensive assessment team consisted of professionals, security officers and correctional officers who deal with correcting offending behaviour and did the initial assessment of each offender entering a facility. The tools they would use would guide them in terms of the questioning they should use. All the role players then meet and assess each case. Case management would be a collaborative effort. The case assessment teams would be held accountable for everything that happened after the assessment phase. If the Department failed in the assessment phase it would fail the individual.

The case review team comprised the unit manager, the coordinator of the correction and intervention team as well as the case officer (who dealt with the offender on a day to day basis) to review each case.

The Chairperson wondered what the Department’s budget for community corrections was. The budget was very important in light of the fact that the Department would be favoring community corrections over unnecessary prison sentences. He explained that they did not merely want to see more offenders outside of prison but needed to be sure that the resources to rehabilitate them were available.

Since Mr Motseki did not have the figures readily available he agreed to submit them in writing at a later stage. He admitted that the budget would not necessarily be responsive to the programme.

Ms Chikunga wondered what impact the implementation of the programmes would have on the Department’s budget. She wondered whether the Department would need more resources (including equipment) or whether the resources they had at the moment were enough.

Ms Sishuba explained that as soon as the White Paper was approved each branch costed the possible implications. At the time the costing was done in broad terms. Now that guidelines for the ORP were in place the Department was starting to make bids to National Treasury. The social integration programme submitted such a detailed proposal.

The Department would need to use its own internal staff. Since there were few psychologists, psychologists would train officials to do basic assessments and would themselves then focus on the more intensive assessments. She assured the Committee that the Department had considered facilities, personnel, the budget itself and information systems. The DCS was currently working with a master information system. If the Department were to be successful in their assessment all information should be computerised for easy accessibility. Everything had been costed in great detail.

Ms Chikunga felt that the problem between the DCS and the Department of Social Development (DSD) around pre-sentence reports that magistrates had identified should be resolved. She wondered whether the Department had already put a plan in place to try and address it. Since the problem would have a greater impact upon DCS it should not wait upon DSD to take the initiative in finding a solution.

Mr Motseki answered that the Probation Services Amendment Act (2002) made provision for a pre-sentence report to be compiled by the DSD. DSD however did not have adequate social workers to perform this function. Sometimes magistrates were indiscriminate about whom they requested the report from – at times they asked DCS and other times they asked DSD.

In addition two other reports also needed to be submitted: one, submitted to the courts by the probation officer and detailing the context in which a crime was committed, the other was a correctional services report indicating whether an offender was ready to return to the community. Magistrates often confused these two reports creating more difficulties.

The Probation Services Act could be partly or wholly delegated to the provinces, the Department or to any other institution the DSD deemed fit. The DCS wanted to discuss the possibility of delegation of sections to its officials so as to avoid further confusion. The DSD in conjunction with the University of Cape Town had run a year-long programme around probation officers. There was no reason why DCS officials could not participate in such a programme and be adequately trained to perform some of the tasks. The DCS would meet with DSD in September to discuss the issue.

Mr I Mfundisi (UCDP) commended the Department for willing to be creative in dealing with their lack of resources. He thought that all correctional officers would want the programmes to be implemented and succeed and wondered why the delegation felt that the orientation and retraining of officials was a challenge.

Ms Sishuba explained that the Department had 36 000 officers. There was a lot of anxiety about getting the programmes off the ground. It was necessary to have a common purpose and to speak with one voice across the country. Since the ORP had correctional service-specific guidelines the Department could not outsource the training. All facilities had to be uniform in their implementation of the programme.

The Chairperson wondered what suggestions the Department had made to magistrates in terms of alternative sentencing.

Mr Motseki responded that the Department had not made any specific recommendations beyond the ones already mentioned in the legislation. There was no need to rewrite the law since it already provided the necessary measures. Magistrates were hesitant to implement the measures the law provided. Magistrates used their own discretion based on the crime that had been committed to decide what kind of sentence would be the most appropriate but might be hesitant about the Department’s capacity to facilitate the serving of that sentence. The programmes were an effort to implement measures that would enable them to carry out their mandate.

According to the Chairperson, the ORP appeared to be a very long process ideally suited to the needs of offenders serving long sentences. He wondered what the Department had planned for those offenders serving short sentences.

Ms Sishuba explained that the Department wanted to discourage sentences of three or six months in prisons. Many offenders were ideal candidates for alternative sentences. There was a need for serious prioritisation. Targets needed to be set. Many offenders were still waiting to be sentenced which posed a further challenge. The Department had come up with a matrix whereby each center would give feedback as far as the number of offenders in the facility as well as how many they received per month. The situation was a challenge and needed close monitoring. If a person were sentenced to two years he or she would receive priority in terms of rehabilitation and reintegration since they would be in the facility for a short period of time. She emphasised that offenders who had committed minor crimes, and children in particular should not receive prison sentences. The Child Justice Bill advocated alternative sentences and the Criminal Procedure Act made provisions for alternative sentencing.

The Chairperson said that he was pleased that the Department had raised this issue and that measures were in place. The Department should voice their disapproval of unnecessary prison sentences. He wondered what the Department was doing to address the problems around scarce skills because uncompetitive salary packages remained a major stumbling block. This also impacted on rehabilitation efforts.

Ms Sishuba said that the DCS was in negotiations with the Department of Public Service and Administration (DPSA) to address some of the concerns. The Corporate Services unit within DCS was working on a recruitment and retention strategy that would address remuneration and the conditions of service in terms of scarce skills. These professionals were not trained as security officials and coming into the correctional environment was daunting. Strides had been made as the upgrading of social workers’ salaries proved. This stabilised the exodus of social workers. South Africa loses many nurses to Australia, the United Kingdom and others. The Department of Health (DOH) made some interventions in an attempt to address the skills drainage. The DCS’ recruitment and retention strategy was aimed at all categories of scarce skills e.g. doctors, nurses, artisans. The DCS had gotten permission to head hunt (within certain guidelines) psychologists. The Department would also, bearing in mind the potential danger involved in working in corrections, consider the code of remuneration, which might need to make special provisions in terms of people working in the sector.

The Chairperson remembered that he had supplied the Department with the names and CVs of 6 unemployed nurses Mr Tolo had forwarded to him. They were willing to work anywhere in the country yet not one of them was employed by the Department. He wondered what had happened to their applications. He requested the Department to follow up on the situation.

Mr Selfe suggested that the Department tap into the private sector and use their services on an agency basis. He wondered what steps the Department had taken to bring professionals from the private sector onboard in a proactive manner. He was curious about the incentives the Department could offer them.

Ms Chikunga reminded the Department that most nurses from accredited private nursing colleges were unemployed. She agreed that many nurses were leaving South Africa, but pointed out that they were mainly professional nurses and not from among the lower ranks who were in abundance in the country. She wondered whether the Department could negotiate with the DOH to return to the old system so that some nurses could be trained for service in corrections specifically. She knew that a clinic could run without a doctor if the nurses there were of a high caliber who were “jacks of all trade”. Some of the posts were vacant since 2004 while there were people who could be trained to work for the Department. Utilising this resource would also address some of the unemployment problem.

The Chairperson too wondered why the Department was not investing in training nurses specifically for service within corrections. He did not think that the Department was doing enough as far as recruitment was concerned.

Ms Sishuba thanked Members for their suggestions. She agreed that reintroducing auxiliary nurses and social workers would assist in dealing with the problems the Department was facing in terms of scarce skills. She said that the remuneration (which was not competitive at all) also played an important role. Successful applicants often turned down the offer of employment because the remuneration was not competitive. As long as other departments paid these professionals more money the DCS would not be an attractive employer. She reminded the Committee that social worker numbers started to stabilise once their concerns around remuneration had been addressed.

The Department had approached the University of South Africa (UNISA) to find out how it could assist (e.g. internships) and to request the staff to assist with assessments, etc. The Department had also met with 14 tertiary institutions and had a conference to find out how they were training people for working in the correctional services environment and how the Department could make corrections a viable field for social workers. The Department was trying, but as long as remuneration was too low these professionals would go elsewhere.
 
The Chairperson asked whether awaiting trial detainees (ATD) were also being assessed. Some of them were incarcerated for long periods of time while they were waiting on their trials to commence and be completed. Many of them had committed serious crimes.

Mr Motseki said that the problems with ATDs had been a concern for a long period of time. It was a “touchy issue”. According to the Constitution a person was presumed innocent until proven guilty. It posed a challenge to the Department, which was geared to rehabilitation and not ATDs. Handling a person whose profile was not known posed a serious risk. The Department had been liaising with the Integrated Justice System (IJS) so that the DCS could get assistance in the profiling of ATDs of whom they should be very wary. A significant number of these ATDs were placed in facilities that could cope with the risk they posed.

The Chairperson told the Department that the Committee was growing very impatient with the slow pace of implementation of the legislation. He said that the Committee wanted to see that offenders were taking part in work activities. Inmates complained to the Committee about being cooped up in overcrowded cells and wanted to go out and work. The Department should get in touch with local and municipal governments to see where they could assist with work programmes.

The Kroonstad facility had once been a very well maintained centre. Inmates used to tend the grounds and its gardens. Now it was in a terrible state yet it housed inmates who were sitting in cells and could be used to maintain the facilities and grounds. He wondered whether this deterioration was a sign that the Department was going down the wrong path. He reminded the delegation that the legislation required inmates to take part in any labour related to their development programmes. They could even go to schools to plant vegetable gardens that would provide food to school children and communities.

He added that by not getting inmates out of their overcrowded cells as often as possible infrastructure also suffered. The Johannesburg facility, although fairly new, already showed cracks. The infrastructure was designed to house 6 000 inmates not 14 000. The Department would be facing many problems if they failed to take action soon. He emphasised that it was important to let the South African society see that the Department was making strides in a positive direction. He agreed with the suggestion that constituency offices should also be engaged. He concluded by reminding the delegation that the Committee was not against the Department and that the good work that had been done so far should be continued.

The meeting was adjourned.


 


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