Inmate radio project vies for top honours

The Brandvlei Youth Correctional Centre, in the Western Cape, will vie for top honours at the finals of the 2012 Centre for Public Service Innovation (CPSI) Annual Public Sector Innovation Awards in Johannesburg tomorrow (Friday, 2 November 2012).

The centre’s radio project, which seeks to build life and technical skills of offenders, is a finalist in the Innovative use of Information Communication Technology (ICT) for effective service delivery category. The project, dubbed Basic Radio, will compete with 11 other government departments, and the overall winners in the various categories will be announced on 2 November. The Brandvlei radio project began 12 years ago as the brainchild of Dr. Don Pinnock, a senior lecturer at the Institute of Criminology at the University of Cape Town (UCT). Since the radio station was started, more than 150 offenders have been trained in radio broadcasting and re-offending has decreased substantially. Educational programmes in the form of health, offender, gender and HIV and AIDS topics make up 30% of the programming, and news and actuality 10%. Some offenders used their broadcasting skills as a stepping stone to pursue careers upon their release. Partnerships have been formed with community radio stations, including Valley FM in Worcester and Eden FM in the Southern Cape, to be used as a platform by offenders who have been involved with correctional centre radio.

Correctional Services Minister Sibusiso Ndebele says that the Department of Correctional Services is going all out to make a positive impact in the life of offenders. “Key to rehabilitation is empowering offenders with skills to function effectively in society on their release but, equally important, is to ensure that offenders are actively involved in productive activity while they serve their sentences. The goal of this needs-based rehabilitation, a partnership between UCT and DCS, is to influence offenders positively to adopt ideal norms and values and to also develop life, social and labour-related skills. In terms of innovation, the project provides offenders the opportunity to alter the way in which they perceive themselves and the world around them, and allow them to express themselves and accept themselves as well as others,” the Minister said.

Also tomorrow (2 November), the Mangaung Correctional Centre (MCC), situated just outside Bloemfontein, will donate 32 refurbished desks to Gonyane Primary School. To date, MCC revamped 1,528 school desks for primary schools in the greater Motheo district. The inmates of MCC, who received training in various skills, sanded down school desktops and gave it a fresh coat of paint. Those tops that could not be repaired were replaced with new tops. The frames were then spray-painted and the tops fitted. Old Mutual joined G4S Care and Justice Services in this outreach programme and donated funds for the purchasing of the material for the refurbishment process.

“This initiative is aligned with Correctional Services mandate of changing the lives of offenders by affording them the opportunity to give back to communities and demonstrate remorse for the crimes they committed against communities. Correctional Services is actively participating in other activities across the country to contribute towards improving the infrastructure and environment in schools,” said Minister Ndebele.

On 18 July 2012, Minister Ndebele, together with offenders, gave the underprivileged 46-year -old Tsakane Primary School in Tsakane Township near Brakpan in Gauteng a makeover. Offenders from the Boksburg Correctional Centre repaired desks, installed library shelves and burglar bars, cleaned the school yard, fixed broken classroom windows, repaired the fence, painted the school and developed a vegetable garden in order to alleviate severe infrastructural challenges at the school.

On 16 July 2012, Minister Ndebele was in Mpumalanga Province where the Ezakheni Combined School received a donation of 2,178 kilograms of five types of fresh vegetables, planted and cultivated by offenders from Piet Retief Correctional Centre, 900 grey trousers manufactured by offenders from Witbank Correctional Centre, 900 white shirts made by offenders from Mogwase Correctional Centre, several pairs of school shoes, and 834 dozen of eggs from Losperfontein Correctional Centre.

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