Correctional Services Minister calls on mothers to support the more than 53,000 young inmates.

With Women’s Month drawing to a close, Correctional Services Minister Sibusiso Ndebele has once again called on the mothers of our nation to continue to support the more than 53,000 young inmates.

“We are calling upon our mothers, in particular, to help us focus on the vast bulk of inmates – young Black men. We have approximately 53,000 youth in our remand detention facilities and correctional centres, and a large number of inmates who, while not under 25, are still in the prime of their life. We must change this.

“We need to accept that crime and criminality is entirely about failures in society, and not a direct consequence of the failures of the system of Corrections. Preventing a life of criminality begins with the family unit, the social fibre and the opportunities for growth that our children get access to. It is extremely concerning that children, who normally should not be in our facility, have committed serious crimes ranging from murder, rape and theft.

“The fact that these children, as young as 17 years of age, have committed serious crimes should make society question where we have failed in protecting our children from a life of crime. The manner in which our children are brought up determines the kind of society we shall have in the future, including the individuals living in such a society. Our average inmate comes to us as a young substance abuser who has dropped out of school before high school, is functionally illiterate and, more often than not, homeless.

“Many children start a life of delinquency at a tender age, running away from school and committing petty crimes. Not long they are coming in and out of juvenile centres and finally becoming hardened criminals. For most of these children, the only family they know is the offender population in our centres and the only parents they know is the system of Corrections. This lack of direct parental support and supervision has meant that no one actually cared about ensuring that these children receive education, care and guidance from an early stage. They were not given the necessary foundation and tools for making choices and decision making.

“Many of our offenders are young people who have never experienced proper upbringing, and family life, themselves. It is for this reason that the department has introduced training of offenders in Early Childhood Development (ECD) skills so that they can become ECD practitioners. This work is helping offenders not just with teaching ECD programmes, but also encouraging them to be better parents. Creating better parents in offenders is important in addressing the vicious cycle wherein offenders, who did not have a stable family environment, end up in a life of crime and will themselves raise children without parents. These children will, in turn, follow a similar life and end up in our centres. Our programme of empowering offenders with parenting skills and ECD training is meant to curb this cycle.

“One re-offender is one too many. We want to make sure that our interventions contribute to the reintegration of offenders as law-abiding citizens, by ensuring that they are rehabilitated, monitored and accepted by communities. However, societal support for those who have served time in a correctional facility is critical to helping them back into a normal way of life. Society is guaranteed a victory against crime, and re-offending, if we all begin to understand the role we must, and should, play in helping those vulnerable among us lead positive and productive lives,” the Minister said.

The Department of Correctional Services (DCS) Women’s Month programme is being celebrated under the theme, “Addressing Inequality and Empowering Women Officials and Offenders in the DCS: Together Contributing towards the Progressive Future for Women”.

Other DCS initiatives during Women’s Month included the handing of gifts to hundreds of children, below the age of 14 years, whose mothers are incarcerated in correctional centres; the handing over of a house to a disabled 55-year-old Western Cape man built by offenders, with money donated from the pockets of women DCS officials; and official launch of the South African chapter of the DCS Women’s Network to create a platform where the 11,809 women in DCS are able to share their observations and concerns, find ways of problem solving and promote unity and cooperation among the female corrections and inmate population, both in South Africa and SADC.

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