ATC100310: Report Oversight visits to the Mangaung, New Kimberley and Grootvlei Correctional Centres

Correctional Services

Report of the Portfolio Committee on Correctional Services on its 2 and 3 February oversight visits to the Mangaung, New Kimberley and Grootvlei Correctional Centres, dated 10 March 2010.


1.         Introduction

1.1        On 2 and 3 February a delegation of the Portfolio Committee on Correctional Services undertook an oversight visit to Mangaung Correctional Centre, one of South Africa’s two public private partnership (PPP) correctional centres and the New Kimberley Correctional Centre which was near completion at the time of the visit and was designed for delivery on the detention and rehabilitation ideals contained in the White Paper on Corrections (White Paper) of 2005. Both centres are located in the Department of Correctional Services’ (DCS) Free State/Northern Cape region.

1.2        Concerned about the large number of sentenced and unsentenced children and juveniles imprisoned, the Committee paid a brief visit to the juvenile section at the Grootvlei Correctional Centre in Bloemfontein to assess the conditions of detention these young sentenced and unsentenced inmates are subjected to.

1.3.       As stated in the Committee’s report on its first official oversight visit to the Pollsmoor and Malmesbury correctional centres in the Western Cape, most of South Africa’s correctional centres pre-date 1994 and their structure is not conducive to the implementation of the rehabilitation and reintegration ideals and strategies contained in the White Paper. Central to the success of these strategies is unit management, which requires the division of a correctional centre into small manageable units ensuring appropriate supervision and monitoring of offenders. This not only limits security risks, but also facilitates the implementation of the necessary development and rehabilitation programmes, while ensuring that detention is safe and secure and that the treatment and care of offenders did not violate South Africa’s human rights framework.

1.4        The Committee is committed to seeing the entirely state-owned New Kimberley Correctional Centre, with its promise of the successful rehabilitation of offending behaviour and reintegration of offenders, become the embodiment of the objectives contained in the White Paper. It has agreed to ‘adopt’ the centre, and will accordingly follow its progress very closely, particularly given that future centres will be modelled on it.


2.         Delegation

2.1        The delegation that visited Mangaung Correctional Centre on Tuesday, 2 February comprised the following Members:

Mr V Smith (ANC, Chairperson), Ms W Ngwenya (ANC), Ms M Mdaka (ANC), Ms N Phaliso (ANC), Ms F Nyanda (ANC), Mr Z Madasa (ANC), Mr A Fritz (DA), Mr J Selfe (DA) and Ms C Blaai (COPE).

2.2        The delegation that visited the New Kimberley Correctional Centre on Wednesday, 3 February comprised the following Members:

Mr V Smith (ANC, Chairperson), Ms M Mdaka (ANC), Ms N Phaliso (ANC), Ms F Nyanda (ANC), Mr Z Madasa (ANC), Mr A Fritz (DA), and Ms C Blaai (COPE).


3.         Context

3.1        In October 2009 the Committee met with both the Mangaung and Kutama Sinthumule correctional centre management as well as the DCS to be briefed on the PPP centres’ operations and challenges. It was agreed that site visits to both centres would be invaluable as far as gaining a better understanding of their operation and the treatment of offenders detained there. Due to time constraints the Committee could however only visit one of these centres in February, and the Mangaung Correctional Centre was selected partly due to a number of inmate uprisings it had experienced in recent months.

3.2        Construction of the New Kimberley Correctional Centre started in November 2006 and has been plagued by numerous delays in its completion, which made completion by November 2008 impossible. It finally started admitting offenders on 11 January 2010, and will continue doing so in phases as from 16 February 2010 when the centre is expected to have been handed over by the contractor. The centre is expected to have been filled to capacity by 15 May 2010. The Committee thought it necessary to visit the centre to gauge its readiness to start operating fully, and given that it may become the prototype for future prison construction in South Africa, to assess to what extent it would deliver on the White Paper’s rehabilitation and reintegration ideals.

3.3        Given the large numbers of children detained at Grootvlei Correctional Centre, and its proximity to the Mangaung Correctional Centre, the Committee agreed to also pay a short visit to that Centre, specifically to assess the conditions under which child and juvenile offenders are detained.


4.         Mangaung Correctional Centre

4.1        The Mangaung Correctional Centre is situated outside Bloemfontein. The PPP correctional centres are managed by a holding company, in the case of Mangaung, G4S, with 2 Department of Correctional Services (DCS) controllers on site to ensure the holding company’s compliance in terms of the Correctional Services Act of 1998 as well as its contractual obligations. The Head of the Centre as well as all staff are G4S employees. The contract between the DCS and G4S is for a period of 25 years after which the centre will be owned and operated by the State. The Centre took 14 months to complete and became operational in July 2001.

4.2        Mangaung Correctional Centre is a maximum security facility housing 2 928 sentenced adult male offenders (agreed to in the contract and therefore never exceeded). 1 217 offenders are serving sentences of 20 years or longer, 800 of them are “lifers”.

4.3        The Centre operates on the concept of unit management and is divided into housing blocks, accommodating inmates in either single or double cells. Each unit is managed by a single warder. Units and other facilities are linked through a number of “streets” used to access workshops, educational facilities, sports fields, kitchens etc.

4.4        Offenders are transferred from centres across the country and all of them are assessed upon admission to ensure that they are assigned a structured day programme best suited to their rehabilitation needs.


5.         New Kimberley Correctional Centre

5.1        Unlike the Mangaung Correctional Centre, the New Kimberley Correctional Centre, which falls in the DCS’ management area is fully state-owned and managed.


5.2        The medium security centre will accommodate 3 000 male offenders, serving sentences of 5 to 40 years. The centre comprises three 1 000-bed housing units. Talks are underway to have one of the 1 000-bed units accommodate female offenders, and the other, male juvenile offenders. At the time of the visit the Centre accommodated 237 male offenders in a single cell block. These inmates were transferred as part of a trial-run to determine the prison’s readiness to start filling and running the centre.


5.3.       In line with the objectives of the White Paper, the centre will operate on a unit management system, and has been designed specifically to make that possible. In addition to the state of the art educational, vocational, health and other facilities, the centre comprises three housing units, each divided into twelve 240-bed cell blocks. Movement between housing units and other facilities happen via a central “street”, which is closely monitored from the centre’s state of the art security control room.


6.         Grootvlei Correctional Centre

6.1        At the time of the visit the Grootvlei Medium A centre, where child and juvenile sentenced and unsentenced offenders are housed, accomodated 7 sentenced boys under the age of 18, and 540 sentenced juveniles. The Centre housed 1 200 unsentenced juveniles, accommodated in cells of up to 80 each.


7.         Observations

7.1        Mangaung and New Kimberley Correctional Centres

7.1.1     Apart from the weekly meetings around operational matters between Mangaung Correctional Centre’s Head and the DCS controllers on site, G4S and the DCS have monthly ‘high level’ meetings to discuss issues related to service delivery. These interactions notwithstanding, the Managing Director reported that communication between his company and the DCS could still be improved particularly to facilitate greater stakeholder involvement and more frequent exchange of ideas to ensure that best practices on both sides are shared.

7.1.2           The Mangaung Correctional Centre ascribed the incidents of unrest experienced over recent months to the reclassification process. According to Section 29 of the Correctional Services Act of 1998 an inmate’s security classification is determined by the extent to which he or she presents a security risk, and determines whether the sentence or remainder of the sentence would be served in a maximum or minimum security centre. Reclassification is determined via a tool introduced to correctional centres in August 2006. In November 2008 the National Overcrowding Task Team (NOTT) reported that the tool was not being utilised at Mangaung, and recommended its immediate implementation. This was not done and in July 2009 inmates embarked on a hunger-strike in protest. At the subsequent consultation process between the DCS and the private contractors it was agreed that the tool would be implemented. The Centre is confident that it has dealt with the unrest and would in future be able to avoid such protests, but could not confirm that the reclassification challenges at Mangaung have been addressed. The Committee was assured that no unnecessary force was used in containing and suppressing inmate protests.

7.1.3          The Mangaung Correctional Centre expressed concern about its ability to implement in line with the President’s announcement on World Aids Day 2009 that anti-retroviral drugs would now be available to all HIV positive persons with CD4 counts of 350 or lower. While this development is welcomed in the fight against HIV/AIDS, there are concerns about how it would be implemented and the costs associated. At the time of the visit the DCS and G4S had not reached an agreement as to who should bear the cost of the implementation.

7.1.4          Mangaung Correctional Centre employs one social worker for every 300 offenders and reported that their retention is much better than that of DCS correctional centres where the working conditions and heavy workload often result in an inability to attract and retain such and similar professionals.

7.1.5          At the Mangaung Correctional Centre all offenders are assessed upon admission to ensure that structured day programmes allowing for school, work programmes, vocational, rehabilitation programmes are developed according to the rehabilitation needs of each offender.

7.1.6          All offenders incarcerated at the New Kimberley Correctional Centre will have sentence plans designed to map their rehabilitation programmes. Corrections Assessment Officers will assess offenders upon admission and will compile sentence plans for the case management committee’s approval. Once approved correctional interventions officers will be responsible for ensuring implementation of sentence plans. The Committee was assured that this process will be followed once phased admission of offenders commenced after the hand-over of the centre.

7.1.7          The Committee was impressed by the general cleanliness of the Mangaung Correctional Centre’s grounds and facilities. Each inmate is responsible for keeping his cell clean and tidy and graffiti is strictly prohibited.

7.1.8          The Committee was pleased to see that inmates at both centres were involved in work activities. At the New Kimberley Correctional Centre inmates were tending the gardens while others were busy with cleaning duties in and around the correctional centres. The facility has a fully-equipped kitchen that will make extensive use of inmate labour and no nutrition services will be outsourced.

7.1.9          The delegation is concerned that on the day of the visits to the New Kimberley Correctional Centre, there was evidence of offenders smoking in areas other than the designated smoking zones, with officials apparently having very little ability or inclination to prevent it.

7.1.10      At the time of the visit most of the financed posts at the New Kimberley Correctional Centre had been filled. The majority of staff members were employed from the areas surrounding the centre, largely because, apart from the head of centre and his deputies, it is unlikely that officials will be accommodated on the prison grounds.

7.1.11      Nutrition services at the New Kimberley Correctional Centre will not be outsourced, and although the soil at the centre is not conducive to agriculture, vegetables will be provided by the other centre in the vicinity.

7.1.12      As is the case at the Mangaung Correctional Centre, the New Kimberley Correctional Centre will be cashless with neither officials nor inmates being allowed any money, thus limiting the opportunity for bribery and other forms of corruption.

7.1.13      The Regional Commissioner agreed that the Judicial Inspectorate for Correctional Services (JICS) played an important role as far as reporting on deaths and gangsterism, ensuring the humane treatment of offenders, the diversion of juveniles and the addressing of the needs of unsentenced offenders. The New Kimberley Correctional Centre’s Head of Centre reported however that officials felt that their conduct was reported on, and that their efforts at maintaining discipline were frustrated at times. There were also complaints that independent correctional centre visitors (ICCVs) were not performing and were compiling fraudulent reports.


7.2        Grootvlei Correctional Centre

7.2.1     The delegation was alarmed by the conditions in which sentenced and unsentenced children and juvenile inmates were accommodated. Apart from the overcrowding, cells were dirty and in a state of serious disrepair with leaks, faulty taps and broken toilets. The conditions were unhygienic and likely to contribute to the spread of disease.

7.2.2     Although kept in cells separate from those of the adult sentenced population, child offenders are wearing the same orange uniform meant for adult sentenced offenders.


8.         Recommendations

8.1        Category of offenders incarcerated at the new generation prisons

8.1.1     Both new generation centres visited were designed to accommodate adult male offenders serving relatively long to life sentences. While all offenders should be provided with care and development programmes, the roll-out of such programmes to juvenile and those serving short sentences should be prioritised, as they stand to benefit most, given that such programmes are designed to reduce recidivism. The region has already submitted a proposal that one of the New Kimberley Correctional Centre’s housing blocks be converted for the incarceration of juvenile offenders, and the Committee eagerly awaits the outcome of that process. The DCS accordingly explore all avenues that would enable them to accommodate juvenile and short-term offenders at both the PPP correctional centres, the New Kimberley Correctional Centre as well as all future new generation centres.

8.1.2     Concern was raised that the centres visited only accommodated men and that therefore male offenders only will benefit from the state of the art rehabilitation services offered at the centres. Cognisant of the fact that women make up a small percentage of South Africa’s prison population and that correctional centres accommodating women had to adhere to the United Nations Minimum Standards for the detention of women, and that such adherence would require certain structural adjustments, the Committee nevertheless recommends that ways in which women can also be accommodated at the centres be explored, so that they too could benefit from the programmes offered there.


8.2        Transfers

8.2.1     Interactions with the offenders transferred to the New Kimberley Correctional Centre since 11 January revealed that many were transferred without having been adequately prepared for the experience of incarceration at the new Centre, or without being given sufficient opportunity to communicate their transfer to their families. The Committee accepts that the delays in the installation of the telephone lines may have contributed to the latter, and recommends that regions transferring offenders to the new centre will ensure that offenders are adequately briefed and that they have opportunity to communicate with their families in order to ensure that family contact, which forms an integral part of their rehabilitation and reintegration, is not compromised. Transfers should be managed responsibly as inmates’ understanding of the benefits of incarceration at the centre is key to the success of the care, development, rehabilitation and other programmes offered. In addition, everything should be done to ensure that the 7 offenders who have to write supplementary matric examinations and who were transferred to the centre from Mpumalanga have the opportunity to do so.


8.2.2     Inmates at both centres complained of long waiting periods before the outcome of their transfer requests are communicated to them, and that often such requests are rejected. Most transfer requests are motivated by inmates’ need to be closer to their families for visitation purposes. The DCS should ensure that all transfers to any centres in the country are done within the prescribed rules and regulations and that as far as possible, such transfers should not jeopardise rehabilitation and reintegration efforts.


8.3        Inmate Labour

8.3.1     The Committee remains ardent advocates of inmate labour which it believes will not only curb idleness, but could, if managed well, result in greater self-sufficiency at centre level. More inmates should be involved in productive activities for the greater part of the day. The Committee recognises that the legislation currently places certain limitations on the DCS as far as its ability to enforce participation in work programmes and educational programmes, and recommends that future reviews of the legislation consider these sections carefully to ensure greater productivity on the part of offenders.


8.4        Development, Care and Rehabilitation

8.4.1     While the programmes intended for the New Kimberley Correctional Centre are most impressive, their success will rely entirely upon all offenders at the centre having tailor-made sentence plans catering to their rehabilitation needs. Such plans and their implementation rely on the DCS’ ability to attract and retain the necessary professionals and artisans to do assessments and run education and work programmes. The Centre should ensure that, in line with the objectives of the White Paper, all offenders admitted are assessed in order to develop the sentence plans which will inform the types of programmes and interventions they need for their rehabilitation.


8.5        Personnel

8.5.1     The Committee agrees that staff at the New Kimberley Correctional Centre should as far as possible be new to the correctional system to ensure that the correctional culture envisioned in the White Paper thrives and is not corrupted. Measures should however be put in place to ensure that the largely new and inexperienced warders are equipped to manage an offender population that is likely to be very familiar with incarceration and may attempt to manipulate and take advantage of warders’ lack of experience. Special care should be taken to ensure that gangsterism does not take root among offenders.


8.6        Number-gangs

8.6.1     While the Committee appreciates the management of the New Kimberley Correctional Centre’s reluctance to acknowledge the influence prison gangs may have once gang members are transferred to the centre, for fear of giving gangs more authority, it believes a more detailed strategy for how to deal with the influence of prison gangs is necessary, particularly given that most of the staff employed at the centre are new recruits who could potentially be manipulated and taken advantage of by the hardened criminals likely to be transferred to the centre.


8.7        Health care

8.7.1     The DCS -G4S dispute about who should pay for the provision of ARVs to offenders with CD4 counts lower than 350 should be resolved as a matter of urgency, to ensure that service delivery is not compromised. The Department of Health should also be negotiated with to determine to what extent it can assist to lower the DCS’ costs in terms of health care provision.


8.8        Delays in completion of the New Kimberley Correctional Centre

8.8.1     The construction of the centre has been plagued by a number of delays. The Department has been assured that the facility would be handed over by 15 February 2010 and is committed to completing all transfers to the centre three months thereafter. The Committee hopes that there will be no further delays, and that the Department and offenders will be able to reap the benefits of a centre that is likely to, at completion, cost more than R890 million, as soon as possible.

8.8.2     Delays are ascribed to weather conditions, scarcity of steel as well as labour unrest but the Committee is unconvinced that these could have resulted in a two-year delay in the completion of the facility. Care should be taken to ensure that future projects are not unnecessarily delayed as these delays have huge cost implications for the State. Furthermore, the exact causes of the delay in the New Kimberley Correctional Centre should be investigated, and those responsible should be held accountable.


8.9        PPPs’ accountability

8.9.1     In the past the PPP centres reported directly to the national Department, but would now, like other correctional centres, report to the region they fall under. The DCS controllers on site at the PPP centres should ensure that contractual and legislative obligations are adhered to.


8.10      Children and Juveniles detained at the Grootvlei Correctional Centre

8.10.1   Children should be diverted or where there is no other option detained in secure care centres designed especially for them so that their specific needs can be met. While the Committee welcomes interventions put in place to reduce the number of incarcerated children, there remains a need for greater cooperation between the departments of Social Development, Justice and Constitutional Development and Correctional Services.

At the Grootvlei Correctional Centre children did not participate in any programmes. While the Committee accepted that children should not be incarcerated and that the provision of programmes and education to them was not the DCS’ responsibility, the fact that they were in its care, requires the DCS to partner with departments that shared the responsibility for caring for delinquent children, to ensure that their needs are met, and that incarceration did not damage them further. It is hoped that the Child Justice Act, that is to come into operation in April 2010, will result in greater coordination of efforts to ensure better care for children in conflict with the law.


8.11      Care and maintenance of facilities

8.11.1   The Committee observed leaks in the roofs of some of the units visited at the New Kimberley Correctional Centre. The departments of Correctional Services and Public Works should ensure that all such repairs are completed prior to the facility being handed over, and that maintenance is not neglected after.

8.11.2   In addition everything should be done to ensure that offenders do not contribute to the destruction and tarnishing of the centre. Grafitti should be prohibited and penalties imposed for destruction and defilement of cells.

8.11.3   The Head of Centre should ensure that the Centre’s no smoking policy is strictly adhered to, and that smoking only takes place in designated areas. Non-adherence not only poses a risk to lives and safety of inmates and staff, but also compromises discipline within the Centre.

8.11.4   Concerns were raised about the absence of toilets in the hospital wards and the security risk that it poses. While the Committee is satisfied with the interim measures to manage the situation, it recommends that the installation of toilets in the wards be prioritised.


8.12      Parole

8.12.1   The 237 offenders currently incarcerated at the centre include offenders sentenced before 2004, who are eligible for consideration for parole after having served a third of their sentence. These offenders should be processed as a matter of urgency to ensure that they appear before the parole board as soon as possible.


8.13      Reclassification

8.13.1   The reclassification of inmates at the Mangaung Correctional Centre should be addressed as a matter of urgency particularly because it is prescribed by law and one of the requirements contained in the White Paper, and also because inmate uprisings such as the ones experienced at the centre, pose a security risk. All centres should be compliant in that regard.


8.14      Judicial Inspectorate for Correctional Services

8.14.1   At the time of the visit the JICS was unfortunately not present to comment on allegations of misconduct on the part of the ICCVs. The Committee does feel however that ICCVs should be screened or vetted and their performance assessed on a regular basis. Furthermore a relationship of mutual cooperation should be encouraged between JICS and DCS officials to ensure that the ICCVs’ necessary presence is understood and does not cause unnecessary strain and suspicion.


9.         Acknowledgements

The Committee would like to express its appreciation for the co-operation of the management of the Department’s Free State/Northern Cape region and specifically that of the officials at the centres visited.


Report to be considered.


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