Correctional Services Minister Sibusiso Ndebele has re-iterated calls for communities to take co-responsibility for the rehabilitation of offenders.
“South Africa has just over 50-million citizens, but our rate of imprisonment is much higher than any other country in Africa as well as one of the highest in the world. Crime originated in the community, and, therefore, the community should not only be an important role-player in reporting and preventing crime, but also, along with other role-players, in taking co-responsibility for the rehabilitation and re-integration of the offender into society.
“To this end, the Department of Correctional Services is embarking on Victim-Offender Dialogues. The main thrust of this programme is to keep as many people as possible away from imprisonment through reconstruction of family units and community systems as well as victim support and empowerment, while pursuing the rehabilitation of those already incarcerated through well-managed rehabilitation programmes.
“The objective of the Victim-Offender Dialogues is to put the victim back at the centre of the corrections system, as the victim is directly, and personally, affected by the criminal act of the offender. Equally, the offender must be given an opportunity to reflect on his or her wrongs and request forgiveness. We want to create opportunities where various stakeholders defined as victims of crime, those affected personally, their families, communities, community-based organisations, non-governmental organizations, religious and spiritual bodies, educators, councillors and local leaders, will assemble together with offenders with a single purpose to rebuild our communities ravaged by crime. We want to reinforce corrections programmes through music, reading for redemption, creative literature, the arts, cultural events, heritage renewal events, sporting events, formal education and acquisition of skills, economic renewal through cooperatives and enterprise development, spiritual growth and self-correcting interventions, among others.
The trilogy of victim, offender and community must play a leading role in the implementation of the Victim-Offender Dialogues as corrections is a societal responsibility,” Minister Ndebele said.
The current World Prison Brief places South Africa’s total of 157,375 inmates (as at 31 August 2011) after the United States (2,3-million inmates), China (1,6-million), Russia (717,400), Brazil (514,582), India (368,998) and Iran (250,000).
The World Prison Brief lists South Africa followed by Ethiopia, Egypt and Morocco with Africa’s highest number of inmates. South Africa sits at number nine worldwide with 310 inmates for every 100,000 of its people. Of total inmates, more than 29.8% are pre-trial or remand detainees.
Ethiopia, with a population of 82,42-million, has 112,361 offenders behind bars. Nigeria, the continent’s most densely populated country with 166,3-million people, has 51,560 inmates with 31 inmates for every 100,000 of its people. The US again heads the list with 730 inmates for every 100,000 of its national population.