The state can’t build more prisons to solve overcrowding, says Deputy Minister of Correctional Services, Nkosi Patekile Holomisa, but prisoners in spiritual-care and skills programmes are more likely to stay out of jail after they get out.
He was speaking at the three-day Spiritual Care Expo held at Pollsmoor Prison earlier this month. The expo presented the work of organisations that use faith-based programmes to rehabilitate inmates.
“At the end of the 2018/19 financial year, 10 695 out of 29 679 (constituting 36%) inmates in the Western Cape region participated in programmes rendered by external service providers,” Mr Holomisa said.
“Furthermore, the percentage of the inmate population participating in spiritual care individual sessions increased from 87% in 2017/18 to 98% in 2018/19. This is truly commendable.”
The country was fortunate that spiritual-care givers were part of prisoner rehabilitation, he said, as it affirmed “the significant role that churches are able to play in the creation of a just and peaceful society, that respects the rights of every person to human dignity, equality and freedom.
“There are tremendous strides that have been made by spiritual-care service providers which are reflected in the participation of offenders in rehabilitation programmes.”
The expo was open to Correctional Services officials, faith-based organisations and NGOs helping to rehabilitate prisoners. Some inmates were also invited to attend the minister’s address.
High Court Judge Siraj Desai said South Africa needed to do something about its high level of repeat offenders. “Various steps are taken to prepare offenders for the outside world, but the problems outside remain the same; rehabilitation remains difficult. All we can do is ask the community to assist the department,” he said.