South Africa: Department Employing Different Strategies to Deal With Overcrowding At Prisons

Correctional Services Minister Ronald Lamola says a number of strategies, including infrastructure expansion, are being used to deal with overcrowding in prisons.

Lamola on Wednesday briefed media at the Imbizo Media Centre in Parliament, a day after he delivered his department's budget vote speech.

The overcrowding rate at correctional centres stands at 37%. As at 31 March 2019, the number of inmates stood at 162 875 - including 47 000 awaiting trial prisoners - against an accommodation capacity of 118 572 bed spaces.

"This is a very disturbing picture... [one that] could become the norm in some of our centres if not managed properly... " the Minister said.

Correctional Services National Commissioner Arthur Fraser said one strategy being employed to address overcrowding involves moving offenders within correctional centres to manage the number of inmates in the different spaces.

The department also looks at which offenders can be released on parole.

To relieve the capacity constraints, Lamola said the department's infrastructure projects - in relation to upgrading and building new centres - is progressing well.

The upgraded C-MAX Correctional Centre in Pretoria has been completed and will be officially opened in August 2019. The facility has 284 beds. The Standerton and Escourt Correctional Centres were officially opened in April and May 2019 respectively.

"The two centres combined provide 1 998 bed spaces. We are now awaiting the official handover of the Tzaneen Correctional Centre from the contractor. When combined with the refurbished Glencoe Correctional Centre, these will provide 1 101 beds by September 2019," Lamola said.

Corrupt officials dismissed, suspended

Meanwhile, Lamola said the department's fight against corruption has yielded some results.

During the last financial year (2018/19), the department finalised 32 disciplinary hearings of officials involved in corrupt activities.

"Based on the outcome of the investigations of the 32 officials, 17 officials were dismissed, five officials were given sanctions of suspension without a salary as an alternative to dismissal, five were given final written warnings and four received written warnings.

"Five officials resigned before their hearings could be finalised, and one was found not guilty," he said.

Lamola said, meanwhile, that the matter of Abathembu King Buyelekhaya Dalindyebo was still being considered by President Cyril Ramaphosa after former Justice Minister Michael Masutha submitted an application for him to be pardoned and released from jail.

The Abathembu King is currently serving an effective 12 years in prison, imposed by the Supreme Court of Appeal in October 2015.

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