10,000 Inmates trained as electricians, plumbers and builders

Correctional Services Minister Sibusiso Ndebele says the Department of Correctional Services (DCS) will produce more artisans to deal with the shortage of critical skills in South Africa.

In 2012/13, almost 10,000 inmates were trained in various trades as part of government’s efforts to develop qualified artisans to support the country’s economy. A total of 9,403 inmates received training in welding, electrical, plumbing, building, carpentry, painting, tiling and chef assistance. In addition to the DCS budget, from April 2012 to March 2014 approximately R50 million was spent from the National Skills Fund to train offenders in welding, plumbing, bricklaying, plastering, electrical, carpentry and agricultural skills programmes.

During 2012/13, 1,515 inmates per day worked in DCS Production Workshops. Qualified artisans transferred skills to offenders in ten wood and steel workshops, 19 textile workshops, one shoe factory, six bakeries and three sanitary towel manufacturing workshops. In addition, 3,110 offenders were involved in agricultural activities each day. Offenders acquired work skills, and experience, in various agriculture projects such as vegetable production, fruits, broiler, egg, dairy, piggery, small stock (goat and sheep farming), beef and agronomy farming.

Minister Ndebele said improving the skills of offenders will enhance rehabilitation. “DCS will produce more artisans to deal with the shortage of critical skills in South Africa. This will also contribute towards government’s Decade of the Artisan programme, with the goal of producing 30, 000 artisans annually. As at March 2013, nearly a quarter (24.99%) of the sentenced offender population was youth. A number of inmates who, while not under 25, are still in the prime of their life.

Children, as young as 17 years of age, have committed serious crimes. The average inmate is a young substance abuser who, has dropped out of school before high school, is functionally illiterate and, more often than not, homeless. Research shows that, at least, 95% of those incarcerated will return to society after serving their sentence. Thus, a focus on rehabilitation, and re-orientation, of offenders is critical. DCS is re-moulding the character, and improving the skills, of offenders so that they return to society with enhanced prospects of success,” said Minister Ndebele.

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