Draft speaker’s notes for the Hon Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula – MP, Minister of Correctional Services at the occasion of the Ministerial Imbizo in Pimville, Soweto at the Grace Bible Church
28 Sep 2011
‘Together supporting our ex-offenders, parolees and probationers to ensure greater successes of their social reintegration by defeating re-offending and contributing to the eradication of crime…in partnership with our communities’
‘Corrections in South Africa is a societal responsibility’.
Senior Managers from the Department of Correctional Services, present here
Acting Regional Commissioner and the Regional Management of Gauteng
Heads of National and Provincial Departments of our Esteemed Government
Local Government Councillors, present here
Representatives of non-governmental organisations, present here
Our esteemed civil society formations and structures, represented here
The Community of Soweto and surrounding areas,
Comrades and Friends
On Monday the 26 September, the Department of Correctional Services (DCS) launched its fifth annual Corrections Week program.
Corrections Week is a time when we as a department, across all six of our regions, facilitate the controlled interaction between offenders and the public to demonstrate the benefits of the rehabilitation programs our inmates take part in, as they prepare to re-join the communities they come from.
What better way to give testimony to these and other self-development interventions than to fly high the flag of rehabilitation programs offered and guaranteed by our progressive laws and policies.
Even when we grapple with the scourge of crime, we must not falter but remain steadfast in our belief as envisaged in the values of the freedom charter that a people’s penal system shall be firm in enforcing the rule of law, all the while cognisant and sensitive to the reality that offenders too remain human beings who must be restored to their intended glory and potential by all our creator.
Indeed today we are proud of the values that this institution stands for as it forges ahead with its transformation from prisons to corrections.
We have certainly moved away from the legacy of the past of serving solely as an instrument of retribution to actively pursuing lasting solutions to the societal challenge that is crime by showing those in conflict with the law that there are alternatives to a life of criminality and self-destruction.
Through previous Corrections Week programs and other public education opportunities, we’ve shared the story of the possibilities that exist through a human rights centred application of correctional administration as envisaged in the White Paper on Corrections of 2005.
This document to which I always refer as our democratic government’s blue print and guide as to how we shall treat even those who err against us as society, enjoins us to enforce the law in a balanced manner by seeking to extricate those who are vulnerable among us, and yes offenders too – whether aware or not aware of this fact – they are part of those who are vulnerable among us.
The White Paper on Corrections enjoins us to pursue this objective by changing the circumstances of those entrusted in our care, as the Department of Correctional Services, through not only offending behaviour altering interventions but also through skills and educational development and training opportunities.
We are all too aware that apart from the sadistic criminal mind, which must society must be protected against, many in our society become in conflict with the laws that govern us all because of the reality of poverty in our country.
The lack of education and adequate skills to penetrate the job market or the lack of opportunities to start own businesses by the unskilled in our society often forces some to engage in criminal activity, to provide for needy families.
Unfortunately this route to wanting to satisfy our immediate desire to stop hunger in our families and to abandon the conditions of squalor that many of our people find themselves living in will almost always certainly lead to arrest, conviction and incarceration.
Skills development and educational opportunities offer us immediate solutions to providing those who are serving time within our facilities, to at least attain a new set of tools of tackling challenges of life better once released through parole or completion of sentence.
However, the social reintegration of those that re-emerge from our facilities is no easy feat, ask any ex-offender, parolee or probationer seated here.
Societal support for those who have served time in a correctional facility is critical to the process of successfully reintegrating back into a normal way of life.
In fact we are convinced that without the community’s support for our offenders during the process of rehabilitation and social reintegration after parole or completion of sentence – the investment that the tax payer’s make in pouring billions of rand annually toward rehabilitation programs in the DCS would amount to fruitless expenditure.
It is our determination however, that through this process of interacting with the public during this and future Corrections Week programs society as a whole is guaranteed a victory against crime and re-offending as we all begin to understand the role we must and should play in helping those who are vulnerable among us lead positive and productive lives.
The message that we wish to send to you our people through this and similar public education campaigns is that, “Corrections is a societal responsibility”.
In essence, we are talking about a partnership between the Department of Correctional Services and communities to assist in preparing all inmates for successful reintegration back into society.
It is for this reason that we have come here today.
We have decided to hold this Imbizo to initiate an important dialogue with the community of Soweto and through our esteemed media the rest of South Africa about the important role each community can and must in supporting those ex-offenders who genuinely want to restore their lives, to lives of integrity, dignity and honest living.
We’ve demonstrated through our much cherished Offender Labour campaign which remains the key pillar of the Corrections Week program that many offenders want to pay back to society by expressing remorse for their actions by willingly going out into communities to repair schools, clinics, old age homes, hospices and many others.
We've taken the Offender Labour campaign to all corners of our country.
We've partnered with the Department of Basic Education in renovating schools such as Mzimhlophe in East London, Oos Rand Secondary School in Ekurhuleni.
We’ve been involved in the renovations of child headed households in KwaZulu-Natal, the Free State, Mpumalanga and in the Western Cape.
We have participated in government’s poverty alleviation program by assisting impoverished communities fight hunger by starting communal nutrition gardens.
The intention of organising offender labour, and the need to consult with communities in this regard, comes out of our realisation that in order to be released as worthy members of society, offenders need to feel that they are part of such a society, and that in turn society should view them as worthy of their reintegration.
It is a challenge that cannot be simply addressed by the department working alone. It is one that requires direct involvement of communities and community structures.
We are calling upon you our communities to use platforms such as these Izimbizo’s to raise your concerns regarding the granting of parole to offenders, we also hope that ex-offenders present here will share their experiences on the challenges they encountered during reintegration.
It is our hope that together we can defeat re-offending by ex-offenders and in the long term, through public education render crime less attractive than it is today.
I am making a call to the public to support our parolees and ex-offenders without you we cannot stem the tragedy of our youth making up the majority of the offender population in South Africa.
Your support will in part be the determinant of whether offenders get a second chance at life or whether they will return to a life of criminality or not.
For our part, we will do everything to ensure that they participate in programmes that give them skills and prepare them for a productive life on the outside.
However, if the community rejects them, we may not succeed in sustaining their stay outside prison.
I am inviting the Community Safety Forums to play a central role in assisting former offenders to be reintegrated into communities, to find opportunities and for counselling and support.
Also, I want us to talk during this Imbizo about the role that of and encouraging victims of crime to play a role in the process of the consideration of offenders for placement in parole.
Restorative justice will also require that there is victim/ perpetrator interaction in the process of finding healing and acceptance.
Real and complete justice demands the respect and dignity of those who’ve been touched by crime to be intimately involved in this process too.
Victim involvement in the process of considering release on parole of offenders is critical in the delivery of justice as this encourages reconciliation and the successful reintegration of the ex-offender back into the community.
I must acknowledge however that this pillar of victim acceptance and community support for those who once erred against us is probably the most difficult to accept and yet critical in the long-term fight against crime.
For many ex-offenders who have found themselves back in our centres, despite the various and useful skills they’ve acquire through our training programmes, it has been difficult to sustain a straight and narrow path to self-development because of understandably hard attitudes of the community and mistrust against those who once wronged us.
It is for this reason that we are moving across the country to send this message of partnership.
I am here to interact with you on any views and comments you have about our work and I invite you to engage with us without reservation.
Issued by: Department of Correctional Services
28 Sep 2011
[ Top ]