Correctional services budget cut of R605 million will worsen conditions of incarceration

The ACDP appreciates that there is government-wide fiscal consolidation and this has resulted in the Correctional Services budget being cut by R605 million for this financial year.

The department will be expected to do more with less. While all departments are affected by these reductions, the ACDP is concerned that funded posts will be reduced from 42,006 to 39,101 due to funding being withdrawn. This may well affect frontline service delivery and worsen safety and conditions of incarceration. The ANC-government must accept political responsibility for corruption and state capture and the R50 billion less collected by SARS. This has had a direct impact on all departments with a required R85 billion cut over the medium term.

This has partially resulted in non-compliance with the Saldanha Judgement relating to overcrowding in the prisons. While the Saldanha judgement relates to Pollsmoor, other inmates may bring similar court applications in other overcrowded centres. On a lighter note Pollsoor must be doing something right as four robbers who recently stole a vehicle in Cape Town fled into Pollsmoor in an attempt to escape. This is classic!  As if Pollsmoor was not already overcrowded.

We are also concerned about the recent escapes of inmates from Correctional Centres, including in Johannesburg and Pollsmoor. It appears that there are unconscionable wardens who assist with these escapes – with 34 officials charged for assisting escapees in 2014/15.  Thankfully, most of these escapees were re-arrested.

The reduced budget will also regrettably affect the Judicial Inspectorate (JICS) that investigates assaults, use of excessive force, unnatural deaths and torture.

The ACDP has long held the view that increased usage should be made of offender labour to deal with minor maintenance projects. We thus welcome the Minister’s commitment in this regard and commend the department on the productivity of its farms and factories that can result in self-sufficiency and generate revenue. We trust that revenue obtained is channelled to the department and not to the central fiscus.

We are concerned by the downward revision of a number of targets in the various programmes. There are also no performance indicators and targets for the Assurance Services despite the Committee’s recommendations in this regard.

The department has for several years been unable to meet its targets set to create additional bed-spaces. This has largely been due to the long delays in the completion of capital infrastructure projects. Regrettably, discussions between the Minister and the Minister of Public Works have borne little fruit.

The resulting overcrowding in our prisons remains a challenge, and is the root cause of health problems and the spread of diseases, particularly TB. We saw this for ourselves when we inspected prisons last year.

The ACDP believes that sections 63A and 62f of the Criminal Procedure Act must continually be applied to release those remand prisoners who are being detained at huge state expense, and who do not present a danger to society. There is also Section 49G of the Correctional Services Act, which seeks to limit the period of time that an accused is remanded in detention. The strict application of these provisions should result in a reduction in the number of remand prisoners and alleviate the overcrowded prison conditions.

The ultimate measure of this department’s success is whether it succeeds in preventing re-offending. Regrettably, attempts to reduce recidivism are adversely affected by overcrowding, vacancies, and the stigma attached to being a convicted criminal. The rehabilitation and social reintegration programmes, are then key in this regard.

We particularly support the increase in the number of restorative justice programs attended by victims, parolees and probationers.  Rehabilitation budgets cannot be underfunded as it will have a direct impact on the reintegration of offenders into society.

We also received a presentation from the Judicial Inspectorate for Correctional Services. While we note that JICS is now a dedicated sub-programme, with an increased budget, we still believe it is not desirable that the Inspectorate is dependent on the department for its funding – it must be an independent inspectorate to operate effectively.

While this department is facing many challenges, the ACDP wishes to thank all those conscientious managers and staff members who under extremely difficult and dangerous conditions diligently do their work in trying to ensure that offenders are kept in safe, secure and humane custody, and undergo rehabilitation programmes.


SPEECH BY: STEVE SWART MP
NATIONAL ASSEMBLY DEBATE: Budget Vote 18: Correctional Services
17 May 2018