REPORT OF THE PORTFOLIO COMMITTEE ON CORRECTIONAL SERVICES ON ITS OVERSIGHT VISIT TO BRANDFORT AND GROOTVLEI CORRECTIONAL CENTRES FROM 21 TO 23 JANUARY 2008, DATED 22 FEBRUARY 2008
Committee on Correctional Services delegation undertook a three-day oversight
visit to Brandfort and Grootvlei
Medium A and Medium B Correctional Centres in the
The parliamentary delegation comprised Mr D V Bloem (Chairperson), Mr S Mahote (ANC MP), Mr M Cele (ANC MP), Rev L Tolo (ANC MP), Ms W Ngwenya (ANC MP), Mr E Xolo (ANC MP) and Mr H Cupido (ACDP). The delegation was assisted by Mr S Makeleni (Assistant) and Ms C Balie (Committee Secretary).
The delegation visited certain sections of the relevant centres and also spent some time interacting with officials, management, inmates, and representatives from the departments of social development, safety and security, justice as well as the Parole Board in the area.
2.1 BRANDFORT CORRECTIONAL CENTRE
· Tour of the facility
i) Kitchen and hospital section
The delegation toured the centre’s kitchen and hospital sections as well as the juvenile and male sections. At the time of the visit to the kitchen six inmates were working in that unit. When asked about their experience of imprisonment, they commented that while freedom is definitely preferable, their relationship with warders was good and based on mutual understanding.
The delegation was very impressed with the immaculate condition of the hospital section. Accurate records of medicines administered were kept. The conditions in the section promoted health and well-being.
ii) Interaction with juveniles
The delegation visited the juvenile cells, and was shocked to find that the inmates had access to centrally-controlled televisions sets. There was a visible electrical wire that the delegation was concerned could pose a threat to the safety and security of the inmates. Some of the young offenders were wearing neckties – another potential threat. The Head of the Centre explained that the offenders were normally provided with ties for court appearances after which they were meant to be returned. The delegation insisted that the necktie be taken from the inmate immediately.
The Committee was particularly shocked by one case. “John Mhkize” was a young man of about 18 or 19 who has been in constant conflict with the law. When he was first arrested (for theft) he could neither speak nor understand spoken language. It was later learnt that he had grown up alone in the veld and that he had had no contact with other people. After he had served his sentence for the first offence, he was granted parole and released to the care of a religious group but also stole there thus breaking his parole conditions. He was promptly re-arrested. This pattern was repeated one or two more times. He has since learnt to speak with the assistance of a fellow inmate, but the pattern of re-offence continues. It was also clear that he has no real understanding of court procedures or the meaning of imprisonment. He has no ID number and no official name. When he was first arrested the arresting officers combined their names and surnames so that there could be a way of identifying him. The Committee was shocked that his case had not been addressed by Social Development in whose realm it clearly fell. The matter will have to be addressed urgently.
Mr Mahote, Ms Ngwenya and the
Chairperson addressed the young men and urged them to upon their release ensure
that they did not end up in prison again. They were the future of
iii) Interaction with sentenced males
The Committee’s interaction with the sentenced males was very revealing. Many complained of the ineffectiveness of both the Legal Aid Board (LAB) lawyers as well as the independent prisons visitors (IPVs) of the Judicial Inspectorate of Prisons (JIOP).
Rev Tolo and the Chairperson addressed the offenders and said
a) Overcrowding: Brandfort Correctional Centre is relatively small and can accommodate 214 inmates. It has 8 cells, two of which accommodate ATDs. While the 6 cells accommodating sentenced offenders are not overcrowded, it is the unsentenced cells that are a cause of concern. At the time of the visit these two cells accommodated 103 of the 220 sentenced and unsentenced offenders at the centre. The centre is trying to manage the overcrowding by ensuring that children and juveniles sentenced for a year or longer are sent to the Kroonstad Correctional Centre where they can attend school, and by transferring some ATDs to the Hoopstad Centre. The situation required intervention.
b) Escapes: Brandfort has to date reported 1 escape in the 2007/08 financial year. The escaped inmate was re-arrested almost immediately. Three officials have been implicated in the escape. Their cases are still pending
c) Suspensions: The three officials implicated in the above-mentioned escape are the only officials who have to date been suspended in the 2007/08 financial year. Normally suspensions are lifted as soon as internal investigations have been completed. The professional council of the DCS would improve the ethical conduct of officials.
d) Vacancies: Brandfort has a vacancy rate of 15, 38% (10 posts). All 10 vacant posts are financed. The Centre’s establishment has been increased to accommodate the implementation of the 7-Day Establishment come the 2008/09 financial year. CVs for candidates to fill the posts have already been received and the gross- and short listing is underway. The posts will have been filled by the end of the financial year.
e) Overtime: The implementation of the above-mentioned 7-Day Establishment requires the gradual phasing out of overtime. Brandfort hopes to have, by 1 July, fully implemented the 7-Day Establishment which would make overtime obsolete. The Committee noted that curiously the 2007/08 budget made no provision for the overtime which will only be phased out completely by 2008/09.
The fact that overtime was being phased out was a source of grave concern to the staff at the facility. Overtime has been an important supplement to staff salaries. They feared that up until the official phasing in of the 7 Day Establishment they would be expected to work overtime but would not get paid for it. The Committee agreed that officials could not be expected to work without compensation.
The management agreed that the phasing in of the 7-Day Establishment would have a number of implications. To be more effective the Department would have to increase working hours to 2 12-hour shifts. Officials would have to work for 45 hours to qualify for a day off. The phasing out of overtime will happen and there was a clear need for the necessary discussions between the unions and their members to begin. Officials working in the areas of security and rehabilitation would get paid accordingly and clear career-pathing would take place.
f) Salaries: The Regional Commissioner said that the management was aware of the poor salaries officials were being paid. The gap that will be left by the phasing out of the overtime will be addressed with assistance from Parliament and National Treasury.
The Department of Public Service and Administration has asked the DCS to implement the 7 Day Establishment by 1 July 2008, thus overtime will be paid up until the end of June. Since there will be no overtime paid after that, if follows that the longer shifts required by the 7 Day Establishment should be accompanied by better salaries. In addition the money that would in the past have been spent on overtime would now be used to recruit more staff.
g) Prison labour: The delegation is concerned that inmates spend a large amount of time in cells and was particularly shocked to find that the cells are fitted with centrally-controlled television sets! While the delegation visited six inmates helped in the kitchen and the delegation was told that some of the Brandfort inmates are being sent to work at some police stations in the area. Most inmates however remained idle in their cells.
h) Inter-sectoral cooperation: The delegation noted that the Head of the Centre took part in many meetings and discussions with the relevant role players. Such interactions are very important as ‘corrections’ is a societal concern, requiring joint efforts.
i)Ramp access: The delegation is concerned that while the facility had ramps, they were not situated in such a way that they gave easy access from the parking areas to the centre.
j) Assault register: In the 2007/08 financial year 2 offender-on-offender and 1 member-on-offender assault were reported. This is a cause of concern and it is hoped that all assaults are recorded and documented as required by the relevant legislation.
k) Unions: The delegation noted that, when asked about it the management explained that both the Public Service Association (PSA) and Police and Prisons Civil Rights Union (POPCRU) were active at the centre, yet the briefing made no mention of such union activity.
l) Independent Prison Visitors (IPVs) and Legal Aid Board (LAB): The delegation noted with concern that the presentation made no mention of either the JIOP’s IPVs or the lawyers from the Legal Aid Board (LAB).
m) Mentally ill: The delegation was interested in the case of the 1 mentally ill offender at the centre. Unfortunately the management of the facility could not indicate whether the inmate in question developed the mental illness while incarcerated or whether his condition might have contributed to his offending behaviour.
n) The briefing
revealed that most of the inmates at the centre are
black and that there are few coloured and white
offenders. The management explained that the most common offence related to
stock theft. The white and coloured offenders are
o) Housing subsidy: DCS officials are entitled to a housing subsidy of about R500 per month. This meant that it is almost impossible for them to buy property in Brandfort where houses cost about R600 000. Staff asked whether it would be at all possible for the Committee to assist in arguing for a better housing subsidy. Staff at the Leeuwkop facility had the same concerns. Property in that are was also not affordable and the situation was such that the DCS was now considering closing that facility. At Brandfort there were only 4 houses available to staff. Those not accommodated are forced to rent which was not cost effective.
Management added that considering other more pressing needs, the Department and government were trying to move away from providing accommodation/housing allowances.
p) Opportunities for advancement: Staff were frustrated by the lack of opportunity for advancement within the Department. They have been told that if they want a position they should apply, yet applicants never seem to have any success. The situation is frustrating since there is no acknowledgement of their experience and loyalty to the Department. This is made more evident when appointments are made from outside, with apparent disregard for the suitably-qualified and experienced officials amongst the existing staff. This was a particular concern for the nursing staff who felt that they were not receiving the recognition they deserved. The delegation felt that although salaries were negotiated with the DPSA, promotions were handled by the Department itself, and that therefore the DCS should take responsibility for how it handles promotions.
q) Annual Increment/Persal scale: Officials raised numerous concerns related to promotions, salary scales and recognition awards (“prestasie”). Many feel that their contributions were not rewarded with acceptable salary increments and performance bonuses. Some were concerned that they have been at the same salary notch for many, many years.
r) Performance Assessments and “Prestasie”: Many officials felt that the performance assessments for performance bonuses were not fair and that favouritism had an impact on who received these bonuses. Some officials (some of whom have been with the centre for 16 years) have never received performance bonuses.
Merit bonuses are awarded annually but only to 25% of officials per salary level. Supervisors write performance reports for moderation by the moderation committee. If performance is found to not have been worthy, no award is made. In the past there have been allegations of favouritism. It was curious that a person could not get a performance bonus for 16 years, yet his supervisor is not called upon to explain that official’s lack of performance over that long a period.
A supervisor confirmed that the moderation committee charged with making the final decision is often not qualified to assess the reports. It was felt that the moderation committee was given free rein because they were not compelled to qualify the points they awarded. In addition, the fact that the award was largely dependant upon a written report meant that those who had good writing skills and could express themselves well in English were advantaged. The situation was such that officials did not even apply for these awards anymore.
The Regional Commissioner explained that there are a number of criteria that need to be met for the award to be made. A recommendation had to be made and a report submitted for assessment. If the performance evaluation made by the supervisor did not correspond to example the performance evaluation made by the auditor general, the mediation committee was forced to adjust it. He went on to assure the delegation that only knowledgeable people served on the mediation committee.
s) Transport: The moratorium on the transport of officials was
presenting a problem. Many officials who work night shifts risk their lives travelling to and from work. Those centres
that applied before the moratorium was instated had that benefit. In one case
an official has been travelling from
The management was of the opinion that those officials working night shifts had to be provided with transport and the Department was trying to address the matter. They explained that the moratorium on government transport was a decision taken nationally and was instated in 1997. At that time the Department of Public Service and Administration had queried why DCS enjoyed the benefit while other departments such as SAPS, did not. It was then decided that unless the application had been made prior to the moratorium, no transport would be provided and no applications considered. Since the decision was based on a public service and administration policy, an intervention had to come from that Department. It was added that the unions active at the centre were aware of officials’ concerns and they ought to take the matter up at the relevant bargaining council.
t) Injuries on duty: Officials were frustrated that, because the DCS has been delaying payments to the medical aid, they cannot get the care they need when they are injured while on duty.
u) Students: The Committee was shocked to learn that there was a trainee who has had the student status for the past three years and has not graduated. He has made inquiries and lodged complaints but has had no success. The matter as well as how his late graduation would impact on his salary adjustment had to be resolved. He was frustrated and pleaded with the Committee for its assistance.
The Head of the Centre reported that he was doing his level best to address the matter. The grievance was sent to Grootvlei in September or October of 2007.
The Area Commissioner responded that he had only heard of the matter that day when he spoke with the official in question. He had assured the official that he would be able to meet with the official responsible for such matters. Should the matter still not be resolved, then the area commissioner would have to address it himself. He assured the Committee that if he had known about the matter he would have addressed it much earlier.
v) Nurses: The nurse at the facility is a professional nurse with primary health care qualification. Their salary notch has been moved to R130 000 p/a but that information has not filtered down to them.
Resolution 1 taken in 2007 contained a condition that looked into the salaries paid to all professionals, following which the Occupational Specific Dispensation (OSD) was developed. In 2001 all nurses did a professional health care course which raised them up to a specific salary. The DCS confused their nurses saying that nurses within the Department were general nurses, when in fact they were professional health care providers since they could administer medicine. General nurses were compensated at a lower level. Clarity should be given regarding this matter.
w) Communication between staff and management: The delegation noted that staff had during the interaction raised a number of complaints. One of these complaints was that they seldom, if ever, received feedback when they laid complaints or made enquiries. They were also not being kept up to date with regards to developments that affected them. Interestingly, during that interaction, management was able to immediately give the responses officials had been awaiting for, for up to months! This pointed to a breakdown in the communication between the two groups. Members were interested in learning whether staff meetings happen regularly and whether officials were given regular feedback and information.
The management of the facility was able to confirm that correspondence was shared if it was of a serious nature. Not such pressing information was placed on notice boards. Personnel and management meetings were held regularly. The minutes of the last meeting could be made available to Members.
x) Transfers: Officials complained that when requests for transfers are made, they are readily declined or not responded to. Management tried to explain that the region was faced with the problem that they invest in officials’ training and development, only to find that within a month of being appointed they request transfers. The Department merely asks that if you have been offered a position, you take it up and then stay with the centre for a decent amount of time so that they can get a return on their investment. It was also important to bear in mind that if you were come from a different region and are appointed there, you have taken an employment opportunity from someone in the area for whom the travelling would not have been a problem.
2.2 GROOTVLEI MEDIUM A CENTRE
· Tour of the Facility
i) Child Awaiting Trial Detainees
The delegation first visited the child awaiting trial detainees and was shocked to find that they had committed very serious crimes ranging from armed robbery and hijacking to child molestation.
When probed by the delegation as well as the SAPS Regional Commissioner it was revealed that at least one of the boys accused of hijacking had been recruited to a hijacking ring allegedly run by foreign nationals. They were also able to buy firearms for as little as R300.
addressed the youngsters and urged them to tell the truth about the
circumstances of the crimes they stood accused of. They should be honest about
how they got access to firearms, who recruited them and where these people
could be found. They were young and ought to be in school learning so that they
could contribute to a strong and safe
ii) Juvenile Awaiting Trial Detainees
The delegation addressed the assembled 556 juvenile ATDs after having given a few of then opportunity to give the delegation an idea of why they were in prison. Almost all of them felt that they had been wrongly accused. One boldly stated that due to poverty and unemployment he felt that he had no choice but to commit to a life of crime: upon his release he will return to crime as he had no other option.
The delegation made
clear that poverty was no excuse for committing crime: none of the members of
the delegation came from wealthy backgrounds, yet not one of them had ever
considered crime. They had fought and were imprisoned,
many had died for a better
ii) Adult ATDs:
The delegation entered a cell that was very overcrowded. Inmates were lying in bed as there was little else they could do. In this cell too a centrally-controlled television set was mounted on the wall. Inmates complained of LAB representation especially that they never had opportunity to meet with the lawyers and that when they appeared in court lawyers were often ill-prepared.
iv) Parole Board Offices
The Chairperson of the Parole Board gave the delegation a tour of the newly completed parole board offices. The entrance was very welcoming and was decorated with plants and posters on the walls. Everything was freshly painted and clean.
The Chairperson of the Parole Board brought the delegation’s attention to the toilet offenders were expected to use. It was opposite the receptionist’s office which had a glass wall facing the toilet which offered no privacy: apart from the gate leading into the ‘room’ it had no door but only a three walls of approximately 1,5 metres in height. It was utterly inappropriate and when the matter was raised with the management, the only response was that that kind of structure was the standard for offenders.
The delegation also felt that the gates and locks were inappropriate since they still created sense of imprisonment even as offenders were being prepared for life outside of prison. The gates and toilet at the back of the office were in stark contrast to the welcoming atmosphere created as one entered the offices.
a) Gender representivity: The Committee noted with concern that the senior management of Medium A was entirely male and that at junior management level there was only one woman. This was in blatant contravention of government policy in terms of gender equity. The situation cannot be accepted. The Area Commissioner said that as he was not responsible for the appointment of those in management positions he could not take responsibility for the lack of gender representivity among managers. It was pointed out that appointments were made as positions became available, positions to be filled by women did not become readily available.
b) Child ATDs: The Committee was
concerned about the number of unsentenced children
and juveniles at the centre. Their crimes are as
serious as armed robbery, assault and rape and that also affects the
possibility to divert them. While there are programmes
for children who have been released on parole, these require social workers to
run effectively. The Department of Social Development’s place of Safety in the
Upon arrest children should be assessed to ascertain where they can be diverted, but ultimately the decision to remove children from prison lies with the court.
The delegation was curious as to why the assembled social workers, correctional; officers, and other stakeholders thought the reason was that most of the children at the prison were black and so few were white, Indian or coloured. The delegation was alarmed to learn that the cases of children who were not black were finalised quicker and that they are often diverted to outside programmes. Often a white child who has committed a serious crime will be diverted to an outside programme while a black child who has committed a less serious crime will be sent to prison. Sometimes whether a child’s parents are wealthy or not also plays a role.
c) Alternative Sentencing: The delegation was adamant that offenders who had committed petty offences should not be detained in prison.
d) Vacancies: The Committee was shocked to learn about the high vacancy rate among professional staff at the Medium A Centre. The 61% vacancy rate is unacceptable especially considering the number of inmates at the centre. It is clear that there is a problem and that should be addressed as soon as possible. Head Office has approved more financed posts and that was given as the cause for the very high vacancy rate. CVs for gross and shortlisting have been received and the interviews will have been held by the end of the quarter.
The JIOP pointed out that once the new sentencing reforms come in to play additional staff will be needed. It is clear that salaries would have to be addressed as that was the biggest stumbling block.
Posts are advertised internally and if an appointment is made from among the existing staff it automatically creates a new vacancy. A possible solution would be to reach a compromise that positions should be filled from internally as well as externally. Officials are not happy that positions will be advertised externally and thus there was pressure from unions and staff to make appointments internally.
e) Disciplinary cases: Only three of the disciplinary cases (those at Brandfort) were related to escapes.
f) Deputy Chairperson of the Parole Board: There is serious concern about the vacancy of the position of Deputy Chairperson of the parole board. The panel charged with making the appointment had come from Head Office. This was a matter of concern to the delegation. Three of the MPs in the delegation had been involved in the interview process in their provinces. It was decided that the national office would have to explain the situation as well as the composition of the interview panel.
The Head of the Centre explained that although the Portfolio Committee had been invited, they were unable to attend. Some Chairpersons were appointed after that process, but some positions could not be filled as no suitable candidates could be found. The law required that Head Office was part of the panel. The Chairperson of the parole board had raised concern about the fact that Justice and SAPS were not represented on the panel. Victims were invited to participate through notices posted at substations.
g) SAPS participation: The Committee raised concern about contradictory remarks as to whether SAPS was cooperating with DCS or not. The SAPS Regional Commissioner explained that that their cooperation ranged from feeding schemes, soccer matches, ensuring that street children went to school and that where they are in conflict with the law they were diverted. The MEC for social development committed R50 million to appoint social workers at some police stations. He felt that all role players had to take part in the national crime prevention strategy. Additionally there was a need for transformation on all levels so as to fight against corruption and favouritism.
h) Non-compliance with policy and procedures: The Committee was interested as to why there was non-compliance with DCS policy and procedures. The area commissioner confirmed that there was a serious need to address the matter of work ethic among officials. Problems have always been there and it has a lot to do with the organisational culture. Part of the problem was that excuses such As work-related stress is common and thus management have to manage officials as though they were children rather than adult professionals who are employed to perform a particular task.
i) IPVs: Although not mentioned the IPVs were functioning at the centre and they had access to all sections. The IPVs were mandated to check conditions and humane treatment of inmates as well as to ensure that social work matters and parole issues are attended to.
There are 2 IPVs at Grootvlei and 3 at the private prison at Mangaung. Brandfort had no IPV as the prison is small enough for it to share an IPV with another facility, but at present no such an appointment has been made. Nominations were received in September 2007 but no suitable candidate was found and thus the VCCO is currently attending to issues at that prison.
The JIOP detailed the major complaints they received: accessibility of LAB lawyers resulting in a lack of sufficient and timeous consultation and in case has been opened via the DCS inmates often had to struggle to get progress reports.
The Chairperson was surprised that the JIOP failed to raise the fact that the IPV who had been at Mangaung had had to leave that facility because he had been intimidated because he had blown the whistle on some of challenges facing that prison.
The SAPS brought the delegation’s attention to the fact that that day was the first time they had heard of the IPVs.
j) Staff meetings: Staff meetings are held with staff and managers. Management executive meetings take place on a weekly basis and monthly management board meetings are held. Staff are notified of meetings 14 in advance and the agendas are set with much input from staff. The area commissioner hosts quarterly staff meetings.
i) Unions: At the Medium A centre too Management made no mention of union activity or their relationship with management. The PSA and POPCRU are active at the prison. The labour relations forums deal with matters of mutual concern and the outcomes are sent to the regional offices. The management of the centre were unable to explain why the unions failed to have monthly meetings: there has been no such meeting since January 2007. The Area Commissioner has also never heard of new shop stewards having been appointed. The fact that concerns were addressed before they required union intervention might be a reason for the lack of union activity.
j) Stakeholder relationship: It was not clear to what extent stakeholders worked together to achieve positive outcomes.
k) Sentencing: There was widespread concern not only within the delegation but also among the other stakeholders that sentences often did not seem to speak to the crime that had been committed. The DCS was face with a dilemma in this regard: sentencing was done by justice, and the DCS has no option but to imprison an inmate for the length of time stipulated by that sentence.
l) Social reintegration: The delegation was made aware that many ex-offenders still faced many difficulties upon released. Apart from the fact that there was much unemployment, employment is even made more difficult by the stigma attached to having been in prison. This ‘social rejection’ makes reintegration almost impossible and increases the risk of recidivism.
m) Staff accommodation: The management reported that while Grootvlei did offer staff accommodation, there was not enough to cater to the need. The Department of Public Works (DPW) unfortunately has no choice but to prioritise, and housing for DCS staff does not feature very highly on their list of priorities. Accommodation was a thorny issue, but they assured the delegation that assistance has been sought.
n) Inmate Skills Development: Certain projects are run to ensure that inmates learn skills that would enable them to work for themselves upon their release. The impact of such projects are minimised by the stigma attached to imprisonment: ex-offenders often cannot find employment, not because they did not have the skills but because they had been in prison. Businesses still need to be sensitised around this matter.
o) Restorative justice: Restorative justice methods could be employed to contribute to the reduction in overcrowding and was marketed on a continuous basis. The Chaplain has been marketing it at the maximum security prison and social and spiritual workers should market it to victims and communities at large.
An important aspect of restorative justice relates to the perpetrator accepting responsibility for what he or she had done. All justice cluster stakeholders should ensure that the Victim Empowerment Charter was made a success.
q) Social workers’ access to Mangaung private prison: The JIOP found unacceptable that social workers’ access to Mangaung prison was sometimes restricted. The IPV responsible for Mangaung would be contacted for a response. It was pointed out that the regional commissioner had no jurisdiction over the APOPS prisons as they reported to the national office. The matter needed urgent attention.
r) Medical release: There were no applications for medical release at Grootvlei. Many offenders who could qualify are left to die in prison instead of being released to the care of their families. Doctors feel that they should not be forced to compromise their reputations and work by releasing someone on medical parole when he or she might recover and re-offend. This is a problem in all areas. The matter was sent to the area commissioner for his intervention but a response was still being awaited. The Regional Commissioner undertook to look into matter and to speak to the doctors as well as the parole board.
s) “Dark room” at Mangaung: The Committee had received reports from IPVs of a cell at Mangaung prison referred to as “the dark room” and in which inmates are allegedly isolated. A suicide attempt had allegedly been made while in there. The JIOP had investigated the matter and would forward the report to the Committee.
t) Community Corrections Forums: Concerns were raised about the fact that community corrections forums were not functioning. It was not clear as to whether this could be ascribed to ineffectiveness or a lack of a clear framework of implementation from Head Office.
u) Parole boards: The Committee was alarmed to hear that information made available to parole boards was often too incomplete for them to make their decisions. In addition a social workers’ report was often not included in an offender’s case file.
v) As was the case at Brandfort the day before, the Committee again noticed that the vast majority of inmates at the centre were black. The SAPS Regional Commissioner pointed out that the impact abject poverty should not be underestimated. Although poverty is not a reason to commit crime, it was a major contributing factor especially when it came to petty offences. These offenders often could not afford bail or legal representation.
2.3. GROOTVLEI MEDIUM B
· Tour of the Centre
Due to pressures of time the Committee was not able to visit cells on the last day of their visit. It was felt that bearing in mind the concerns raised by officials, time should be taken to visit the SONDOLO control centre as well as the visitor’s reception area.
i) SONDOLO IT Access control
The access centre has been operational since 2006 and the SONDOLO contract will expire in 2011. Officials are meant to be trained to take over the function when that time comes, but no such training has commenced. When the contract expires, it is suspected that a new training contract would be signed. Officials had complained about the congestion at the entrance, and it was decided that another turnstile would be installed. SONDOLO staff manned the centre: they worked in shifts and there was always one person on standby duty in case of emergency.
The delegation was concerned that because no DCS officials were involved or being trained there was a security risk. It was also not clear who would be held accountable should security be breached. The matter had to be discussed with Head Office as it was totally unacceptable.
ii) Visitor’s centre
The delegation was appalled at the state of the visitors’ waiting area – it was small and could not accommodate more than two visitors – others would have to wait outside where there was no shelter against rain or sun. There were no seats or bathroom facilities. The state of the waiting area was unacceptable and the delegation could not understand how the office of the parole board could have been built while renovation of the waiting are was clearly needed. Members also supported the suggestion that it be moved from the back of the centre to the front.
a) Overtime: As was the case at Brandfort, staff complained that they had received much distorted information regarding the phasing out of the overtime. They were particularly interested in whether there would be a possibility of them being paid a special allowance for working more hours.
b) Salaries: Officials were curious as to when salary adjustments would be made. Officials were expected to perform well, yet their services were not acknowledged. Discrepancies among what equally qualified and experienced white and black officials earned was also a major problem.
c) Human Rights Organisations: Officials were concerned that while many human rights organisations fight for the needs of inmates to be addressed, they do so with apparent disregard for the conditions under which officials have to work. They requested the delegation to inform such organisations to make submissions around how officials should combat crime without ”tampering” with inmates’ rights.
d) Unit management: Officials thought it ironic that while the new unit management did not allow officials a lunch break, inmates were guaranteed three meals a day.
e) Media and the image of the DCS and its officials: The media painted a very negative picture of the DCS, accusing them of corruption and aiding inmates. The National Department then immediately and on air, responds that the officials will be fired. This was inappropriate, since normal procedure required that certain processes were followed. Rash utterances made to the media created a false impression of all DCS officials as corrupt and unprofessional.
f) Merit awards: The officials were quite bold in stating that when it came to merit awards the quality of their work was of little or no importance. Merit awards were awarded based on one’s allegiance to certain managers. It was suggested that an audit of everyone who had received performance bonuses since 1994, be done: such an audit would probably reveal that the recipients remained the same.
g) Career advancement: As was the case at Brandfort officials were frustrated by the fact that their experience appeared to count for very little when it came to promotions or appointments. Some improved their education on their own but did not receive any kind of recognition. It was a source of frustration that one could work for 20 years and study to improve one’s qualifications but not be promoted.
Some complained that professional specialised training was a futile exercise, since one was often assigned custodial duties irrespective of one’s education.
h) Ill treatment of nurses: A nurse who had started at the centre in 1999 complained of her continued ill treatment by both inmates and officials. She was assaulted by an offender in 2004 and although she reported it immediately nothing has been done about it. Although she is a health care professional who is allowed to dispense medicine, she does not get paid according to that qualification. In addition she was falsely accused of having aided an escaped convict. She requested a transfer but received no response. She added that she had applied for the position because she wanted to work at Grootvlei, but the current circumstances made it very difficult.
Another official had applied for a position as nurse and after her appointment that status was changed to correctional officer. She feels that she has been moved from pillar to post. She has none of the basic things she needs to perform her duties: she is required to submit monthly reports but has been installed in an office that has no computer equipment, no telephone, etc. Complaints have been made to the supervisor but nothing has been done to address the situation.
i) Poor management: many officials felt that there was a need for managers to be trained in how to manage. Many officials were treated with disrespect because managers treated Grootvlei “as if it was their own”.
j) Inmate behaviour: Officials were pleased about the Committee’s stance as far as inmates and their rights and privileges were concerned. Many inmates were difficult to control, precisely because they confused their rights with their privileges.
k) Safety and shifts: An official raised concern about the fact that as little as 8 officials are expected to guard up to 150 inmates. This is risky especially since often a female official has to guard the only-male inmates. He stressed that it was a practical concern that should not be misunderstood as sexist.
l) Staff meetings: Medium A staff were especially concerned about the fact that no staff meetings were held and that therefore their concerns were not being heard.
m) Bursaries: While bursaries were offered to better their qualifications, applicants are often told that there were no funds. This made folly of any efforts at self development.
n) SASSETA: As was the case at Brandfort, officials complained that SASSETA took its time to deliver entry level certificates and often disregarded time frames.
o) Technical skills: Many officials felt that they had qualifications that could be used to rehabilitate inmates. Instead of making use of these skills, the DCS opted to outsource services.
p) Intimidation: One staff member told of the intimidation she has suffered since she was accused of having been a corrupt official. She had been with the DCS for 27 years and in 2001 was demoted to CO1 level. She has submitted a number of grievances but they did not get addressed. Her intimidation, especially at the hands of the Head of the Centre, continued.
q) Overcrowding: It was well known that overcrowding was a major problem. It placed stress on inmates, staff and infrastructure, yet the DCS had no choice but to admit more inmates on a daily basis. Those who committed petty crimes should not be in prison and foreign nationals should serve their sentences in their own countries.
r) Community involvement: The delegation’s attention was brought to the fact that very young people were now committing very serious crimes. There was a need for greater community involvement in preventative and rehabilitative programmes.
s) Severance packages: there had been talk of severance packages offered to older staff. Many had applied but have received no feedback. Once such packages have been granted those officials would make way for younger staff to be promoted to their positions.
t) Disciplinary processes: Many disciplinary cases were not fairly handled and result in court cases costing the DCS much money. Some of these cases are unjust and end with the DCS losing costly court cases.
u) Sondolo: The tender for access control which had been awarded to SONDOLO IT, which was part of the BOSASA group was also a bone of contention as it created made officials feel as though they were being treated as inmates. The officials felt that the Department should not renew the contract once it expires as it created unnecessary friction.
v) Danger allowance: Officials were concerned about the rumours that the danger allowance paid to officials working in the area commissioner’s office would be scrapped. It was felt that as soon as one set foot in the prison grounds one’s life was in danger and thus all officials irrespective of the section they worked in ought to receive the danger allowance.
w) Over expenditure: The overspending was ascribed to hospital and doctor’s fees, and the increased food rations required for the increased number of inmates.
The delegation was concerned that Grootvlei had to supply the private prison in the region with medication despite the fact that that prison had a budget of R300 million, far more than the R25 million allocated to Grootvlei. Management explained that Grootvlei was an accredited site and had a responsibility to provide medication to those who needed it. Grootvlei gets its ARVs from the Department of Health at no cost. Mangaung claims that also “has problems” with its budget.
x) Case management Committee: The Chairperson of the Parole Board reported that although case management committees (CMCs) hold quarterly management meetings Medium A was often not represented. The Area Commissioner explained that a decision had been taken that to make the committee more effective he would from now on chair those meetings.
The backlogs experienced resulted from the fact that the CMC was not functioning as it should. Building the capacity of those serving on the CMCs was the major challenge. The lack of capacity impacted on report writing especially. It was hoped that since now for the first time CMCs would be funded these challenges would be addressed.
A number of professionals need to assess an inmate upon arrest, his sentencing as well as once he or she enters into the system. A well compiled sentence plan provides a good basis to work from.
The delegation raised a concern about the fact that despite the fact that the CMCs were not functioning well at all, the presentation indicated that they functioned optimally.
y) Petty offenders: It was made clear that imprisoning unsentenced offenders with small bail amounts placed a burden on tax payers.
Magistrate van Rooyen explained that part of the challenge around popularising alternative sentencing methods was that magistrates and judges were independent and that thus they could not be forced to use particular sentences.
The Criminal Procedure Act’s S62(f) process is in place, and where there was no compliance with this provision reports must be sent to the relevant authority so that offenders that fit the category could be released. He had requested such reports from Grootvlei almost three years ago but none had been received. Had he received them he was certain that he would have been able to release up to 150 inmates a day. Ensuring that ATDs were released rather than kept in prison was a joint DCS and justice responsibility. The fact that reports were not forthcoming from the centres could be related to their understaffing.
The delegation thought that, considering the levels of overcrowding at the prison the failure to submit the reports constituted a serious act of negligence.
Efforts to alleviate overcrowding would only work if all role players worked as a unit. While magistrates and judges were independent and enjoyed that independence, their stubborn refusal to use alternative sentences became the burden of the DCS.
The Department of Justice was able to confirm that an agreement was made about three years earlier that those offenders with bail of less than R1 000 had to go through the S62(f) process. This made it obligatory for magistrates to release offenders on their own recognisance, or to parental supervision. Prosecutors should also be brought on board.
The delegation felt that the matter of judges who unnecessarily increased bail amounts so that offenders were kept in prison would be taken up with the Portfolio Committee on Justice and Constitutional Development. The JIOP was aware of these judges too. The Centre must also provide the Committee with the necessary details regarding those offenders who qualify for release.
The JIOP held quarterly stakeholder meetings aimed at alleviating the plight of ATDs. They agreed that the NPA had to also come on board, as it yielded much power when it came to whether an offender would be remanded in custody or not.
The Department of Social Development also ran a number of programmes that address the matters raised during the interaction. The social development official identified lack of understanding of legislation was a major stumbling block. In addition departments sometimes became very territorial and that led to poor coordination and delays in finding solutions to problems.
The Regional Commissioner explained that the DCS did not have the budget or the capacity to deal with ATDs. He emphasised that should they be expected to take up that responsibility, it should be accompanied with the necessary budget, infrastructure and training.
1) Overcrowding: The Committee recommends that more be done to reduce the number of ATDs at the centres visited. Such a reduction will require a multi-facetted approach drawing on the cooperation of all sectors involved: police, justice, correctional services and social development. It is imperative that only those offenders who pose a threat to society are incarcerated. Offenders who can be diverted should be diverted to rehabilitation programmes outside of prison, community corrections, etc. More must be done to ensure that the magistracy and judiciary are sensitised to the burden ATDs represent within correctional centres. Section 62(f) of the Criminal Procedures Act should be used wherever applicable to ensure that the ATD numbers which contribute substantially to overcrowding in correctional centres across the country are kept to the absolute minimum. Children should, as far as possible be diverted to alternative programmes.
The visit confirmed that while there is some cooperation between the major role players - the departments of Justice, Safety and Security and Correctional Services - more must be done to ensure that all possible alternatives to prison sentences are explored and used as that would result in a reduction in the number of offenders sentenced to prison-time and would thus ease overcrowding, which hampers rehabilitation and reintegration programmes, thus increasing the risk of recidivism.
2) Prisoner rights and privileges: Throughout the visit the delegation stressed that while offenders shared basic human rights with non-offenders, those rights should not be confused with privileges. Privileges must form part of a reward system so that they are earned. Rights had to be demanded but privileges must be earned.
3) Prison labour: The delegation was, as always appalled to see inmates spending entire days in overcrowded cells and advocates for a return to a version of the pre-1994 inmate labour. The Committee under no circumstances recommends that offenders’ human rights be compromised or disrespected but feels that prison work will positively contribute to their rehabilitation and reintegration into society. It will also be a way of reducing the pressure on already overcrowded cells and infrastructure. Inmates must be encouraged to give back to society: they could for instance tend gardens, grave yards, be involved in the building of parks for children, build vegetable gardens in communities, schools etc. Such activity would foster a good work ethic, social responsibility and would even assist in developing skills that could play a role in curbing recidivism.
4) Assault register: The Committee recommends that care be taken that as per the legal requirements all assaults are recorded and investigated. The JIOP must report on these assaults to the Committee.
5) Medical Parole: The delegation was disappointed to learn that many gravely ill offenders die in prison because doctors are reluctant to release them in medical parole. The Committee recommends that doctors are sensitised to the reasons why medical parole is granted. Offenders who are seriously ill and are expected to die should be released on medical parole so that they can die with dignity and among their loved ones.
6) Offender Assessments: Offenders must, as required by the legislation, be assessed upon their entry into correctional centres so that the best sentence plan could be developed in each case. The Committee realises that there are a number of constraints in this regard (i.e. overcrowding, under staffing but stresses that measures to achieve the desired level of compliance be put in place immediately.
7) “Dark Room”: The JIOP must investigate the allegations of the alleged ‘dark room’ at Mangaung Correctional Centre and must submit its report to the Committee.
8) Independent Prison Visitors: The JIOP is charged with monitoring and ensuring that inmates are detained under humane conditions. It uses IPVs as its eyes and ears on the ground: they visit prisons and report on inmate complaints and concerns. For this reason it is integral that all correctional centres have IPVs attached to them and that the IPVs are adequately capacitated to perform their duties. The Committee is concerned that although both centres visited had IPVs, their presence there and relationship with the management was such that it did not warrant a mention in any of the presentations. Inmates complained of their apparent lack of efficiency. The JIOP must report to the Committee on matters related to the IPVs: how they are nominated and elected, vetted and monitored.
9) Legal Aid Board: As in the case of the IPVs, inmates complain that the lawyers from the LAB offer them little of any support. The Committee acknowledges that with the large number of ATDs, the LAB are faced with certain constraints and challenges, but feels that urgent and long standing cases must be prioritised. The Committee will also raise the concerns with the Portfolio Committee on Justice and Constitutional Affairs.
10) “John Mkhize”: The Department of Social Development must investigate his case and report the findings and outcome to the Committee as soon as they become available. He does not belong in prison as his particular needs cannot be addressed there.
11) Mentally ill offenders: The delegation noted that both centres counted mentally ill persons among their inmates. Upon arrest offenders who are mentally ill must be referred to appropriate places of safety or institutions. Where, such as possibly in the case of “John Mhkize” at Brandfort, a mental condition is a mitigating factor that should be taken into account, the relevant social development of health officials should be called on for assistance. This would not only be humane treatment, but would also ensure that only those offenders who should be in prison are in prison.
12) Escapes: While suspensions and investigations resulting from official complicity are often reported on, little is ever heard of the outcome of these investigations i.e. whether criminal action or disciplinary action has been taken or whether an official has been dismissed. The Committee recommends that decisive and consistent action be taken in these cases as official-collusion poses a direct threat to security.
13) Suspensions: The Committee recommends that drastic action be taken to ensure that cases in which officials have been implicated are dealt with swiftly so as to ensure that suspensions are not long drawn-out affairs. Investigations must be fast-tracked (without compromising their outcomes) so that matters can be resolved and the DCS can continue with its mandated task. In 2006/07 the DCS spent R9,7 million on salaries to officials who were on suspension. This is unacceptable. The Committee will in February meet with the DCS to discuss the matter and to learn what measures have been taken to ensure that it be addressed forthwith. Whether or not the Committee has received clarity on this and other matters related to 2006/07 expenditure, will have an impact on the Committee’s decisions around the 2008/09 budget.
14) Vacancies: The Committee recommends that the vacancies in the Department be addressed as a matter of urgency. The Committee has urged the Department to do its own recruitment and not to leave it to recruitment agencies who did not understand the dynamics within the DCS. Making sure that all vacant posts are filled would also relieve officials of some of the stress and frustration associated with being understaffed.
15) Overtime: The Committee recommends that overtime be budgeted for especially because up until the phasing in of the 7 Day Establishment, officials will still be working overtime and should be paid accordingly. This could not be left unbudgeted because control over spending is of integral importance.
16) Discrimination: The delegation is conscious of the fact that it had listened to staff complaints and had not asked management to respond to some of the allegations that were made. What was clear is that the relationship between management and staff was strained, and that discrimination on racial grounds was cited as a possible cause. The delegation had also noted that while white officials had also been part of the staff meeting held at Grootvlei, not one had participated in the interaction. This was a cause of concern as all DCS officials had a responsibility and a duty to work together to transform that Department. The Committee cannot make recommendations as far as inter-personal relationships but recommends that management takes all necessary measures to ensure that issues such as favouritism, and discrepancies in salaries, that contribute to the strained relationship are addressed.
17) Gender Equity: The delegation was disappointed to see so few women in management positions. The Government’s policy in this regard was very clear: men and women should be equally represented. The Committee will keep a close eye on developments in this regard and recommends a speedy attempt to ensure gender equity and representivity.
18) Unions: the Committee recommends that regular union meetings take place. Unions are an important go-between staff and management and could assist in the many challenges particularly around communication and feedback that officials raised during the visit.
19) Housing subsidy/accommodation: The Department must explore the options available so that officials can be provided with better subsidies/ accommodation. The Department knew how much officials at various levels got paid and had to realise that one could not earn R3 500, and be expected to spend R1 000 on rental accommodation. Housing allowances or alternatives had to be raised as matter of urgency in the relevant bargaining council.
20) Opportunities for advancement: The Committee will raise this matter with the National Commissioner in order to ascertain where the problem was. The Department was experiencing difficulties retaining staff as well as acquiring skilled professionals such as nurses, and cannot afford to lose dedicated staff because of lack of recognition whether through performances bonuses, promotion or salary increases.
21) Performance Assessments/“prestasie”: The Committee will raise this matter with the National Commissioner. It was not acceptable that officials worked and no appreciation and recognition of their work was being shown. The Committee recommends that the application process be revised so that officials are able to submit reports in a language with which they are comfortable and are able to best express their performance achievements and challenges.
Performance awards are a way of service recognition, as well as morale boosters. The Committee recommends that the process be monitored, that an audit be done of who has been rewarded since 2004. The Committee will propose that should it not be possible too conduct the performance award process in a manner that was fair, that process must be made away with completely.
22) Transport: The Committee recommends that the issue of a travel allowance or subsidised transport for DCS officials be addressed as soon as possible. Officials’ safety had to be prioritised particularly because the nature of their work requires that they work in shifts.
25) Trainees: The Committee recommends that the Area Commissioner report back on the status of the trainee who had been working for the DCS as a student for three years without having graduated.
26) Assaults on officials: The delegation thought it deplorable that an assault on official that took place almost four years earlier still has not been resolved. The fact that the victim is a nurse who wants to work at the Centre, despite the challenges nursing staff and other professionals face, makes it even more unacceptable. The matter must be addressed forthwith and a report submitted to the Committee.
27) 7 Day Establishment: Staff must be kept abreast of any developments related to the implementation of the 7 Day Establishment because its implementation would impact on what up until now has been a source of additional income for officials.
28) Relationship between management and staff: The strained relationship between management and staff must be addressed as a matter of urgency. Officials work under tremendous strain and should be treated with the respect they deserve. Managers must manage in manner that promotes the smooth running of centres, and not in a way that isolates staff.
29) Inter-sectoral cooperation: While the Committee was pleased to hear that management took part in many intersectoral forums, it recommends that the heads of the centres ensure that once they have attended meetings with other role players that information is filtered down to the staff. The Committee is pleased that different role players are talking to find solutions but stressed that offenders too should take part in some of these discussions.
30) Facilities: The Committee recommends that at Brandfort ramp access from the parking area which especially in winter can become muddy and difficult to traverse be improved. It is important that officials, inmates and visitors with disabilities can easily access the facilities.
31) Grootvlei Visitor’s Centre: The Committee recommends that urgent action be taken to renovate and even relocate the visitor’s centre. It should be a relatively welcoming and comfortable space where offenders’ families can wait. It must provide shelter from the elements and must be secure.
32) Sondolo IT: The Committee will discuss this matter with the National Department as a matter of urgency. While outsourcing might be understandable in certain circumstances, the outsourcing by DCS of a security function is matter of concern. The fact that no DCS officials have been trained to take over the function is unacceptable and has to be addressed immediately.
33) Alternative Sentencing: The Committee
agrees that once a crime has been committed appropriate punishment should be
meted out. Considering
but would also lower overcrowding and thus the costs of the DCS. It did not make sense that a person should spend even a day in prison (at R123 per day) for having stolen a pair of shoes to the value of R50! The Committee believes that if one has committed a crime one must be arrested, but the justice cluster had to work with the DCS to ensure that only those who had to be in prison were in fact imprisoned.
Report to be considered.