The department plays an important role in the value chain of our country's social services, said the Minister of Justice and Correctional Services, Adv Michael Masutha, during his department's Budget Vote debate.

He said the citizens of this country should not doubt his department's ability to build a South Africa in which they can enjoy their rights. This mandate that informs our strategic plans encapsulates predetermined objectives and performance targets that constitute the framework within which this budget is articulated.

We take leverage from the National Development Plan's objectives of a just society and a peaceful country in which everyone can proudly call home, he said.

Our contribution to this call is to turn our correctional centres into change agents. Our 22.8 billion allocated to us will help in turning our correctional centres into change agents.

As a response to the recent court case brought by Sisonke Justice Coalition to the Cape Town High Court and its finding on overcrowding at Pollsmoor Prison, he stated that plans are in placed to reduce overcrowding and to relocate inmates from over to less overcrowded prisons. The minster stated that the department is on course to abide by the ruling and to reduce overcrowding in accordance to the 150% stated by the court ruling.

Our main aim in this financial year is to have a modernised Integrated Management System (IMS) of inmates and our facilities, he said.

This will help us to streamline processes and the offender profile. So that we can have a clear-cut profile of inmates, this is key to classify offenders accordingly. Such innovation will be complemented by technological advances that will, among other things, detect crime through body scanners and cellphone detection to make our centres more modernised.

In our view, the most crucial role of our correctional services is not to lock up inmates, but to reintegrate back into society, said Dr Mathole Motshekga. The locking up of inmates is incidental, rehabilitation is central to the ministry's work. Most of all, the plans of the department are denominated in numbers, but they don't tell a human story.

According to the National Development Plan, the reintegration of inmates back into their societies is largely dependent on effective rehabilitation programmes, he said. When these programmes are good qualitatively and conducted by skilled personnel, they can prevent inmates from relapsing back into criminality.

The department and inmates are doing a good work, but unfortunately some of it is not known to the public out there, he said. The department needs to publicise the good work it is doing. The farms of the department produce much-needed produce that has created well more than R132m revenue which went to the national fiscal. As a Committee we are of the view that it should be retained by the department to fund its rehabilitation projects that are critical to our human rights culture.

We come here and say more or less the same thing year in and year out, said Mr Selfe. The objective of any criminal system is to rehabilitate and very few can be rehabilitated in our overcrowded correctional services, said Mr James Selfe. Overcrowding allows the gangs to flourish. This is due to a large number of inmates who serve minimum sentences who cannot pay low amounts of bails.

I am encouraged by the effort the department is making in strengthening its victim and offender dialogue programme, he added: This programme is the most effective in ensuring a successful reintegration of offenders into society.

We are alarmed by the increasing budget of incarceration in relation to that of rehabilitation and social integration, said Prof Msimang. The increase in incarceration budget suggests that we are losing the fight against crime. We would have liked to see a decrease in incarceration budget and more increase in rehabilitation and social integration of prisoners.

Overcrowding is a teething issue that continues to dog the ministry and this has made them not places that instil a renewed hope and meant to turn inmates into useful citizens, said Mr Nthako Matiase. This shows that we have a retributive justice system. And these centres have become places where black dreams and aspirations are shuttered.

Why did it take a judge to detect overcrowding at Pollsmoor Prison? What does this say about us as Members of Parliament? asked Mr Steven Swart. Have we given over our oversight responsibilities to the Judiciary? Given that overcrowding is prevalent in other prisons, this exposes the department to more litigation, he said.

Source: Parliament of the Republic of South Africa

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