ATC110323: Report Chairperson’s unannounced visit to Leeuwkop Correctional Centres
REPORT OF THE PORTFOLIO COMMITTEE ON CORRECTIONAL SERVICES ON THE CHAIRPERSON’S UNANNOUNCED VISIT TO THE LEEUWKOP CORRECTIONAL CENTRES ON 24 FEBRUARY 2011, DATED 23 MARCH 2011
The Portfolio Committee on Correctional Services receives numerous complaints/requests for assistance from offenders and their relatives about the parole process. The Leeuwkop correctional centres and their Correctional Supervision and Parole Board (CSPB) appear to be particularly beleaguered as most of the requests and complaints emanate from these centres. The chairperson of the Committee therefore undertook an announced visit to meet with the CSPB, as well as the Centres’ case management committees (CMC), to establish what their challenges were, and to discuss how these might be resolved. The visit took place on 24 February 2011.
2.1 On the day of the visit the centre was hosting one of its regular campaigns to raise awareness among local schoolchildren of the negative impact of crime and imprisonment. Although the campaign, which was driven by the non-governmental organisation, Pillar to Post, and typically included motivational speeches by inmates at the centres as well as a tour of the cells, was well-received and has had a positive impact, officials were of the opinion that still more could be done to ensure that the project’s message reached more of the communities in the magisterial district that the centres serve.
2.2 As revealed by correspondence received by the Committee, the CSPB and CMCs reported that inmates and the community were largely uninformed about the parole process resulting in misunderstanding, unmet expectations, disappointment and frustration among both inmates and their families. All agreed that there was a need to improve awareness in this regard.
2.3 A CMC typically manages the profiles of up to 720 sentenced offenders. Accordingly, the Leeuwkop management area is served by four CMCs. The chairpersons of the CMCs agreed that their caseload was too heavy, and argued that, for them to execute the responsibilities successfully, the number of sentenced offenders each CMC manages should not exceed 400.
2.4 Many letters were received from inmates who complained that they were being scheduled for CSPB appearances despite the fact that they had not yet attended the programmes forming part of their rehabilitation schedule. This placed them at a disadvantage. The CMCs felt that officials serving on these committees should receive necessary and ongoing training to ensure that they are best able to manage case files, thus ensuring that, by the time an inmate qualified for parole consideration he or she would meet all the requirements in terms of rehabilitation programmes, social work assessments, psychologist assessments etc.
2.5 Those who were sentenced to incarceration before 2004 become eligible for parole consideration after having served a third of their sentences. Offenders, however, complained that many of those who were sentenced prior to the 2004 amendments to the Correctional Services Act were being discriminated against. Despite meeting all the necessary requirements, they were often denied parole simply in order for them to remain incarcerated for a period closer to the “50% sentence-served” provision of the post 2004 legislation.
2.6 The CMCs reported that many offenders qualifying for parole could not be released because they did not have the monitorable addresses and support systems required by the legislation. Given that a large number of offenders came from informal settlements where often there were no street names, and that many offenders might have been rejected by their families and friends, it was suggested that the legislation be amended to allow alternative means for monitoring a parolee’s whereabouts.
2.7 The Leeuwkop management area is served by one CSPB. At the time of the visit the vacant chairperson’s positions had still not been filled. Although the vice-chairpersons reported no challenges as far as the CSPB’sfunctioning and capacity, they were concerned that when one of their two public representative positions becomes vacant on 1 March 2011 their operation might be adversely affected. A CSPB quorum comprises three members, which must include the chairperson and vice-chairperson. At present, only one member other than the Chairperson and Vice-Chairperson is regularly available to attend meetings. His contract expires on 28 February 2011, and although the post has been advertised and interviews held, no appointment has been made. Of the four CMC chairpersons, at least one has been acting as a chairperson since 2008.
The officials present were requested to provide the Committee with the information listed below, and in some instances information has been received. All matters raised will be discussed with the National Commissioner for Correctional Services, and the Leeuwkop Correctional Centre will be provided with a response.
3.1 Given the President’s State of the Nation Address, which committed government departments to filling all vacancies within three months, the CSPB and the CMCs had been requested to provide the Committee with a list of all its vacancies by Monday, 28 February 2011. The information was provided within the timeframe and is being considered. The Committee welcomes the National Commissioner’s commitment to fill all vacancies by the end of the 2011/12 financial year as this would go a long way towards easing CMCs’ and CSPBs’ case loads.
3.2 The CMCs must, by 31 March 2011, provide the Committee with a detailed proposal for how they believe CMCs should be structured and resourced, as well as any legislative changes that would assist them to better execute their mandate.
3.3 The CMCs and CSPB must, by 31 March 2011, provide the Committee with a detailed proposal for how information could be disseminated, and awareness raised, about parole among inmates, communities and officials.
3.4 The CSPB and the CMC had been requested to provide the Committee with a list of all those offenders who have been denied parole simply because they had no monitorable addresses and no support systems by 28 February 2011. The information was received and the Committee will consider it as part of its monitoring of the parole system.
3.5 The CSPB must, from 24 February 2011, provide the Committee with an explanatory report whenever an inmate’s application for parole is denied and he is referred for further profiling. To date no such reports have been received, and it is therefore assumed that since the visit no offenders have been denied parole and referred for further profile.
3.6 The chairperson met with four inmates who had lodged complaints/requests for assistance with regard to the parole process. The CSPB and the CMCs must, by 28 February 2011, provide written reports on the status of the applications of Messrs S Dlamini, S Mapasa, E Kahn and G Hassan. The reports have been received but in at least one matter, the offender has requested further assistance.
3.7 Mr Mapasa had also lodged a complaint of victimisation and the unexplained confiscation of his computer. A progress report on the investigation currently underway should have been provided by Friday, 4 March 2011. Although a summary of this matter was provided, the final report on the outcome of the investigation has not been received.
Report to be noted.
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