Correctional Services Minister on turning prisons into schools
2 Oct 2012
Correctional Services Minister Sibusiso Ndebele will today (2 October 2012) meet with Cuba’s Vice Minister of the Interior Ministry, Division General Jose Milian Pino, before departing for New York.
The Minister, supported by Correctional Services National Commissioner Mr. Tom Moyane, is currently on a study tour to Brazil, Cuba and New York to study, and observe, various issues pertaining to the correctional services portfolio that will provide a broad understanding of conceptual and organisational operations of the prison service resulting in the consolidation of best-practice models for South Africa.
Yesterday (1 October 2012) in Havana, Minister Ndebele met with Cuba’s Head of Prisons, Brigadier General Marcos Hernandez, and senior officials of the Directorate: Penitentiary Establishments, which falls under the Ministry of the Interior. The main focus of the meeting was Cuba’s “Battle of the Ideas” and “Turning Prisons into Schools” programmes.
Turning prisons into schools went from being a utopian aspiration to becoming a reality in Cuba. The genesis of this work goes back to the very triumph of the Cuban Revolution in January 1959. Without losing its rigour and discipline, the Cuban authorities have acknowledged that the Cuban penal system no longer relies on the simple behind bars mentality, but they have exploited the advantages of dozens of courses for different educational levels, combined with improved working and living conditions for both prisoners and officials.
Social workers are involved with prisoners in group dynamics, psychotherapy and classes to improve human relations, tolerance and general behaviour. Libraries are also located in prisons. Hence, more than 95% of their inmates are fully equipped with at least one skill upon their release from prison and 51% graduate with an educational qualification.
Minister Ndebele also visited one of the main prisons in Havana, known as Combinado del Este, where he personally interacted with officials and inmates. He then visited the prison hospital where inmates not only receive medical care, but are also afforded an opportunity to study nursing. The Minister also visited the learning centres as well as the skills centres, including the building construction skills centre and prison automotive park. In Cuba, inmates are also utilised for the rebuilding of state institutions such as schools and hospitals.
On 28 September, Minister Ndebele met with Consul General Mmaikeletsi Dube, and senior officials, at the offices of the South African Consulate General in Sao Paulo, Brazil. The Minister was briefed on bilateral relations in the correctional sector between South Africa and Brazil, particularly the increase in the number of South Africans being arrested, and imprisoned, for drug-related crimes in Brazil. Brazil has committed to forging closer ties with South Africa on correctional matters, and a high-level technical team has been invited back to Brazil to take matters emanating from Minister Ndebele’s visit forward.
On 26 September, Minister Ndebele held a meeting with the Director-General, Dr. Augusto Eduardo de Souza Rossini, and senior officials of the national Penitentiary Department at the Office of the Ministry of Justice in Brasilia, the capital of Brazil. The main focus of the meeting was their “Absolution of Time Through Reading” and “Absolution of Time Through Labour” programmes. In Brazil, prisons are offering an interesting option to select prisoners: read and write essays on works of literature, philosophy and science to reduce sentences by four days for every book completed.
Prisoners have one month to read each book and write book reports that must “make use of paragraphs, be free of corrections, use margins and legible joined-up writing”.
The programme allows avid readers to shave up to 48 days off their sentence every year. Statistics, and analysis, show some strong links between literacy and crime levels. Brazil, with 514,582 inmates, currently ranks fourth in the world in terms of inmate population. The cost per inmate is approximately one thousand US dollars per month. In terms of education for inmates, Brazil is investing three hundred million US dollars from 2012 to 2014.
There is a partnership between the Ministry of Justice, under which the Correctional Services portfolio (Penitentiary Department) falls, and the Ministries of Education and Health with regards to the implementation of a national Education and Health plan for inmates. Brazil also has 1,050 Community Councils, in various states, which play a key role in the integration of offenders into society.
On 25 September, Minister Ndebele met with Ambassador Mphakama Mbete, and senior officials, at the South African Embassy: Brazil where the Minister was briefed on bilateral relations between South Africa and Brazil.
Cell: 083 644 4050
Issued by: Department of Correctional Services
2 Oct 2012
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