The focus of the meeting was to monitor, and evaluate, progress of the NCCS. Issues discussed at the meeting included:
• Parole Board and Case Management Committee training;
• Training for Psychologists and Social Workers; and
• The Second Chance Act.
The NCCS, currently chaired by Judge Siraj Desai, is a statutory body, appointed in terms of Section 83 and 84 of the Correctional Services Act (Act 111 of 1998). Its primary purpose is to provide advice in terms of policy, with regards to the correctional system and the sentencing process.
Minister Ndebele has requested the NCCS to apply their minds to the Second Chance Act.
“In 2007, both the Democrats and Republicans in the United States sponsored a unique legislative proposal to expand re-entry services for people leaving prison and returning to society. The Second Chance Act repudiates the notion that recidivism reduction is best achieved through deterrent threats alone, and calls for the delivery of services to former prisoners not in a minimal or grudging way but in a systematic, progressive fashion. It is a re-entry movement that could be classified as therapeutic jurisprudence, restorative justice and to some extent victims’ rights. It provides programmes and services that will aid rehabilitation efforts and encourage positive participation in society upon release.
It eliminates ‘invisible punishment’ by excluding access to public benefits such as social grants, general assistance, housing and jobs. The Act counters the effects of policies which have made it extremely difficult for ex-offenders to re-enter the normative non-criminal community and could explain why there are so many recidivists. As part of the Victim-Offender Dialogues, we must consider this legislation.
Our responsibility is to keep those who by law are supposed to be inside. But unlike a train driver, our task is not limited to ensuring that they are properly inside but rather that they are properly rehabilitated. But that task does not end with them leaving the prison gates. It is still our responsibility to ensure that they do not re-offend. The Second Chance Act may assist in this task,” Minister Ndebele said.
Later today (11 March 2013) the Minister will meet with NICRO, which was first established in 1910 as the Prisoner’s Aid Association and has a history in human rights, prison and criminal justice reform.