Budget Vote Media Statement by the Minister of Justice and Correctional Services, Adv. Michael Masutha
Ladies and gentlemen of the media, thank you for taking time to be with us for this briefing ahead of our Budget Vote at 14h00.
The Department of Correctional Services plays an important role in the criminal justice system in South Africa as part of the JCPS Cluster and the justice value chain. The citizens of this country must never doubt our ability of building a South Africa where all people would enjoy quality life in a safe, and secure, environment. The Annual Performance Plan encapsulates the Department's predetermined objectives for the 2017/18 financial year, as well as the performance targets we have set in order to deliver on our mandate. We take leverage from the National Development Plan which compels government to build a just, fair, prosperous and equitable society that everyone can proudly call home. It is for this reason that our programmes are structured to transform individuals to leave our centres as change agents. The budget allocation for 2017-18 financial year is R22.8 billion, aligned to effect the implementation of our programmes.
In November 2015, I established a Task Team to drive the review of our parole system. I will be reporting to the Members of Parliament today that a draft position paper has been finalized. Key to note is that consultations are continuing, and we shall keep the media updated. Various pieces of legislation impacting on the parole system including Correctional Services Act and Criminal Procedure Acts are being reviewed. Once all necessary processes have been finalized, we will approach Cabinet and Parliament with draft legislation to effect implementation of the Position Paper.
Key to our capacity to deliver on our core mandate is adequate infrastructure which must be in a proper state. Nationally our overcrowding is at 137% and varies from centre to centre depending on a number of factors including the size and location of the centre. Plans are in place to introduce measures that would reduce overcrowding by way of relocating offenders from over-crowded to less crowded centres while effecting necessary and urgent infrastructural improvements and necessary expansion to realize more bed space in response to an ever rising need.
A continued increase in offender population has presented unavoidable challenges of overcrowding in our correctional facilities over the years. A case brought by Sonke Gender Justice, in December 2016 on overcrowding in Pollsmoor, has again highlighted the problems that overcrowding creates towards ensuring safe custody premised by humane conditions. We need to highlight that we have reduced overcrowding in Pollsmoor to at least 157%, much closer to an Order of the Western Cape High Court of 150%.
We are pleased that shorter term sentences keep on decreasing, while long term sentences are on the rise. In the past 13 years (2003- 2016), sentences between six and 12 months decreased by 51% and those between 12 to 24 months plummeted by 71%. What is even then worrying is that sentences between 10 and 15 years increased by 77%. The number of offenders sentenced to 20 years and above increased by a staggering 439%, whilst lifers grew by 413%. This says that we are increasingly becoming a violent society.
Looking at these figures, there is an urgent need to create additional bed space and take extra levels of care over our existing infrastructure which is dilapidating due to limited maintenance. Utilization of offender labour will go a long way in reducing the level of dilapidation in our facilities. I have seen many of our regions taking advantage of offender labour to do some of the critical maintenance work, and this must be applauded.
Having visited the new Tzaneen Correctional Centre construction site in January this year, I am happy that many major projects are progressing as per the schedule. Standerton phase II has been completed, and the last phase is planned to be finished this year. The renovated Correctional Centre in Estcourt will also be completed this financial year.
A while ago government realised the need to centralize the development of a centrally coordinated and transversal information system within the criminal justice system resulting in the introduction of the Integrated Justice System project which is supported by establishment of portals by each of the key stakeholders in the justice system value chain that would support such a system. Living in the 21st century compels us to modernize our systems, and take full advantage of Information Communication Technology. The Integrated Inmate Management System (IIMS) is not only ground-breaking, but it streamlines business processes across all correctional facilities, and provides a single-view of inmate and offender information, based on biometric identification.
The system is up and running in Kgosi Mampuru II Correctional Centre and Johannesburg Remand Detention Centre, having commenced on 19 March 2017. IIMS will give us clear cut profiles of inmates in our facilities, and such profiling is key in terms of classifying offenders accordingly. We are on course with the national roll-out, and such innovation is complemented by other technological advances such as the installation of cell phone detection technology in eleven (11) centres and fourteen (14) body scanners to be installed this financial year.
Our responsibility is to rehabilitate all those admitted in our centres, and marshal them into a new path. The thrust of offender rehabilitation showcases correctional centres as places of new beginnings, where education and skills development are the beating heart of corrections. Those at high risk are young people, who constitute more than 65% of the offender population in this country. However, we do take solace from some of our programmes which point to a positive outcome. Our matriculants in the 2016 academic year achieved at 72.1% pass rate albeit slight reduction from last year, there was improvement in Maths and Science.
We are also humbled by some of our partners who continue to invest in our rehabilitation programmes. The National Skills Fund (NSF) has approved over R87 million, for 2017/18 to 2018/2019 financial years, targeting to skill more than 10,058 offenders. Another partnership was established with the Safety and Security Sector Education and Training Authority (SASSETA), with a commitment to provide funding for the training of offenders in various accredited skills programmes.
The Department of Correctional Services can, and will, play an active role in assisting young girls who, at times, miss school merely because they cannot afford sanitary towels. In October 2016, DCS was granted full patent rights for the sanitary pad machine, invented by Correctional Official Mr Johan Piek, at Leeuwkop Production Workshop. This machine will enable to us make a much needed contribution to society, and bring back dignity in our young women. At Boksburg, 25 offenders successfully completed their training in horticulture and the centre continued to produce accredited artisans to the tune of 35 in 2016 alone.
We are a Department of caring individuals, and I have invited a Correctional Official, by the name of Aubrey Baloyi, as one of my special guests for his humility and goodwill. Mr Baloyi saved R2000 from his learnership stipend and bought Mr Cesar Cumbe a wheelchair, having realised Mr. Cumbe's daily struggle of using self-made knee pads in order to crawl. This is well in line with the spirit of Ubuntu, and this country needs more Baloyi's. As a Department, we are very proud of this young man.
Correctional Services will continue to offer employment through Learnership programmes. Our target is the youth, who are most vulnerable. We also make a concerted effort to attract learners from child-headed household backgrounds, and we are privileged to have two of them with us today - Alex Sello Chokoe from Polokwane and Nompilo Angel Moyeni from Kokstad. Our contribution was awarded a gold medal for the Best Interns Learnership Programmes and Best Skills Programme, at the National Skills Authority (NSA) awards ceremony. Such recognition has even encouraged us to further recruit 3, 096 youth in the next learnership programme. It is, therefore, not surprising that we have reduced the backlog of unfilled vacancies, by 7.4% in the past financial year.
A vexed issue that has repeatedly been raised with me during the izimbizo and other public engagements is the issue of criminal records, pointed as a significant hindrance in the employment of ex-offenders. Save for minor offences which are administratively expunged at the lapse of a period of 10 years, a person retains criminal record for life even beyond completion of their sentence unless they receive a presidential pardon upon application. This is a global practice and it is meant amongst other things as an alert regarding a person's past criminal conduct for potential employers but not be construed as legal barrier for employment of that person. We are however reflecting on the concerns raised and will be looking at the desirability of reviewing the law in this regard in line with international best practice
Ladies and gentleman, rehabilitation of offenders remains key and it is our quest to foster transparency. Let us engage and move South Africa forward!
Issued by: Department of Correctional Services