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Inside Africa, Part II
By Adriane P. Reesey, Broward Sheriffs Office, Department of Law Enforcement Administration
Published: 05/05/2008

Flower Editor’s note: In part one last week , Inside Africa, Reesey discussed her part in a professional corrections delegation, comprised of wardens, psychiatrists, and educators, that traveled to South Africa to explore the country’s corrections system. This week she reviews the South African Correctional System’s 20-year vision and how it is working toward those goals.

In 2005, the Department of Correctional Services (DCS) put together a white paper, or government report, expounding upon and setting out goals, the new 20-year vision that placed rehabilitation at the center of the paradigm. Rehabilitation is defined in that document as the correction of the offending behavior and the development and ultimate promotion of social responsibility, as well as values.

The DCS’s white paper provided the structure for the implementation of policy that was then phased into 36 DCS Centre’s of Excellence. The document placed rehabilitation at the forefront, believing that prevention of recidivism was best met through opportunities for offenders to improve and to correct their behavior, and not through punishment. (14)

Currently, the DCS has under its purview seven programs. The programs include administration, security, corrections, development, care, social reintegration, and facilities management.

At the time of the delegation’s visit to South Africa, prison overcrowding continued to be an enormous problem. Prisoner numbers reached their highest in February 2005 at 185,632. The numbers began to decline following the implementation of an amnesty program dealing with certain categories of sentenced prisoners and an early release of 30,704 prisoners in August 2005. (15)

Of note is that the prison capacity was indicated to be 100,000. Contrary to expectation though, prison population from 2004 to 2007 hovered between 160,000 and 180,000. The reason for the overwhelming increases in population is that in the South African prison system, the pretrial, or unsentenced, inmates are kept in the very same facilities as the sentenced prisoners. The unsentenced population accounts for more than 30 percent of the overall prison population, standing at more than 45,000.

As of May 2007, the prisoner population was broken down by category and crime classification, consisting of aggressive crimes, 54 percent; economical crimes, 24 percent; sexual crimes, 16 percent; narcotics, two percent; and other crimes represents four percent. (16)

Gender and age are specifics also taken into account. At the time of the trip, females constituted 18 percent of the overall population and children approximately 27 percent. (17)

The corrections program aims to provide needs-based correctional and sentencing plans targeting all elements associated with offending behavior in order to address the specific rehabilitation needs. DCS has introduced unit management in the Centre’s of Excellence, as well as risk assessment and profiling of offenders as a pilot or startup program.

DCS is working toward the development of four programs, that is, substance abuse, prerelease, anger management, and sexual offenses. It has also accredited two external service providers for anger management and peer drug counseling, but many nongovernmental, or NGO, entities have no funding and cannot continue offering services to prisoners.

Furthermore, the development program through the DCS aims to provide needs-based personal development services to all offenders through vocational and technical training, recreation, sports, and education in order to develop employable and productive citizens and to facilitate reintegration of offenders. (18)

The in-custody programs and offender services ratios that presently exist consist of 37 psychologists, or one to every 4,062 prisoners; 387 social workers, or one to every 413 prisoners; and 412 teachers, or one to every 388 prisoners. To compound matters, there is limited opportunity for employment or vocational and educational training within the facility due to current staffing and interest levels from the community. Currently, training is only provided to sentenced prisoners. (19)

The DCS identified a “rehabilitation path” consisting of nine steps for offenders while in custody. During admission and orientation, a basic person profile is given, and the inmate receives information on the corrections system. Inmates then obtain the rules and regulations and are sorted for their assignment to the respective DCS facilities.

The offender is evaluated for security competence and understanding. Personal restoration takes place through programming whereby the offender identifies issues and begins the process of personal accountability. Role modeling is available within the DCS through DCS- endorsed projects. Role modeling service to society is also available. Finally, release, reintegration, reconciliation, and restoration take place. (20)

Whereas many of the services and information are already taking place in prisons across the United States, the DCS advised that it had hoped for full implementation of the nine steps in 2008. It would appear at first glance that, indeed, the country has kept pace with counterparts in the correctional services arena, but the implementation has fallen behind.

The efforts that the DCS set forth thus far and the achievements gained in such a short period are not to be criticized in any way, nor is the integrity of the white paper to be diminished.

The harsh reality is, however, that South African prisons are overcrowded, services are deficient in response to poor funding of NGOs, and the DCS is lacking in its ability to implement objectives laid out in the interpretation of the white paper. (21)

In conclusion, the 34th President of the United States was a true visionary in his conceptualization with relation to international dialogue. The mission of the People to People Programs was attained through the delegation’s frank and open discussions with its South African counterparts.

Professional ambassadors from the two nations met and shared some innovative strategies for handling issues that both countries are experiencing pertaining to their respective corrections systems.

South Africa and the United States will continue to work together toward the betterment of their respective systems and a future of international understanding. (22)


13 - South African government information. 2007. Correctional services. Available at http://www.info.gov.za/documents/subjectdocs/subject/correct.htm.

14 - Nomatamsanqa, S. 2007.
Kunene, S. J. 2007.

15 - Nomatamsanqa, S. 2007.
Kunene, S. J. 2007.

16 - Nomatamsanqa, S. 2007.
Kunene, S. J. 2007.

17 - Nomatamsanqa, S. 2007.
Kunene, S. J. 2007.

18 - Nomatamsanqa, S. 2007.
Kunene, S. J. 2007.

19 - Nhlapo, V. 2007. PowerPoint Presentation on rehabilitation and reintegration, 8 November, in Johannesburg, South Africa.

20 - Nhlapo, V. 2007.

21 - Nhlapo, V. 2007.

22 - Eisenhower, M. J. 2007.
People to people program.


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