South Africa elected as Chair of the African Correctional Services Association (ACSA).

New York, USA: Correctional Services Minister Sibusiso Ndebele has expressed delight at South Africa’s election as Chair of the African Correctional Services Association (ACSA).

Correctional Services National Commissioner Mr. Tom Moyane was elected Chair of ACSA at the 2nd Biennial Conference, hosted by Uganda Prisons Service, in Kampala, Uganda from 2nd to 5th October 2012.

“We are extremely delighted that South Africa has been elected Chair of the African Correctional Services Association (ACSA). By electing South Africa as Chair, ACSA recognises the significant role played by our country in this important African institution. We will use our position on ACSA to enhance correctional services on the continent,” said Minister Ndebele.

Representatives of more than 24 countries attended the conference, and South Africa was represented by Correctional Services Chief Deputy Commissioner for Incarceration and Corrections Mr. James Smalberger and Regional Commissioner for the Free State/Northern Cape Ms. Subashni Moodley. As a body that brings together the Correctional and Prisons Services in Africa, ACSA strives to take centre stage and make a profound contribution to the drive to mainstream corrections and advance penal reform in Africa, while responding to the needs and expectations of the community. South Africa held the position of Secretariat of ACSA for the past two years, and hosted a successful conference in 2011 in Sandton attended by various Correctional Services National Commissioners to discuss methodologies, policies and strategies towards the harmonization and integration of correctional systems.

Meanwhile on Friday (5 October), Minister Ndebele visited the Sing Sing Correctional Facility in New York which concluded his study tour to Brazil, Cuba and New York. The Minister was hosted by New York’s Deputy Commissioner of Correctional Services, Mr. Joseph F. Bellnier, and key issues discussed included education and alternative sentencing.

The Sing Sing Correctional Facility, built in 1825, is a maximum security prison operated by the New York State Department of Corrections and Community Supervision. The State of New York currently has approximately 55,000 inmates (of which 1,530 are incarcerated at Sing Sing), 60 correctional centres with approximately 29,000 staff and an annual budget of 2,9 billion US dollars. Their vision is to enhance public safety by having incarcerated persons return home under supportive supervision less likely to revert to criminal behaviour.

Deputy Commissioner Bellnier said the lifestyle of inmates must change. “Inmates were not destined to be in prison. Offenders were not born to spend their lives in prison. Our rehabilitation programmes are based on the premise that 95% of inmates will be released back into their communities at some time, and, therefore, their lifestyle must change,” he said.

Minister Ndebele said that the study tour will assist South Africa tremendously. “The study tour to Brazil, Cuba and New York has enabled us to see first-hand, and study, a wide range of aspects pertaining to the correctional services portfolio. This has provided a broad understanding of conceptual and organizational operations of the prison service in various countries, which will assist us tremendously in consolidating best-practice models for South Africa,” the Minister said.

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