According to BusinessTech, the Government is carefully examining the criminal justice system in relation to incarceration for low-risk crimes so that it does not become the only option for such crimes.
“We will be reviewing some of our policies and we are looking forward to thoughtful contributions, which will emanate from public debates through the legislative process so that together, we can address overcrowding in correctional centres,” the Minister said.
He said the rate of imprisonment for awaiting trial offenders is increasing at a rate which requires South Africa to urgently interrogate the linkages in the criminal justice system.
An analysis of the inmate population to date reveals that the bed space in correctional services currently sits at 118,572, whereas there is a total of 149,330 inmates, with 96,272 sentenced inmates and 53 058 remand detainees.
This means that 55.1% of the inmate population have yet to have their day in court.
“Some are in our centres for economic crimes such as shoplifting, stealing and robbery. There are also those who have committed heinous crimes,” Lamola said.
Efforts to address overcrowding
In the next five years, South Africa will create an additional 3,000 bed space through upgrades and construction of new facilities.
“However, as I have said, experience has taught us that it is not possible for our infrastructure projects to outpace the rate of conviction due to our high crime rate in the country.”
“This means the level of crime must significantly be reduced for us to avoid overcrowding,” the Minister said.
The Minister has called on communities not to discriminate against released inmates, who have acquired skills to make an honest living.
In the last financial year, production workshops in Correctional Services in which inmates operate produced the following:
- 7 million loaves of bread
- 3 million litres of milk
- 415,000 kg of fruits
- 471,000 kg of red meat
- 7 million kg of pork and
- 539,000 kg of poultry
- 4 million dozens of eggs
To date, Correctional Services centres have recorded 1,485 recoveries and it is attending to 497 Covid-19 active cases.
“Our sincerest condolences go to the families of 16 citizens in our centres, who have since passed on as result of COVID-19,” the minister said.
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