Hon Minister, members, ladies and gentlemen, and colleagues, I rise on this occasion on behalf of the 100-year-old liberation movement, the ANC, in support of the Budget Vote for the Department of Correctional Services.
It is with great sadness that we are gathered here today, following the departure of our comrade, the Minister for the Public Service and Administration, Roy Padayachie. There is no doubt that the comrade contributed significantly to our struggle for liberation and continued to serve our state and citizens in the numerous roles he played as a Cabinet Minister and Member of Parliament. May his soul rest in peace.
The strategic focus of the department's Budget Vote this year identifies one of government's pressing issues as the management of remand detainees. Over the MTEF period, the department intends to decrease the number of remand detainees to 46 000. It will do so by promoting the bail protocol provisions of the Criminal Procedure Second Amendment Act of 1997 for minor offences and establishing at least one dedicated facility for remand detainees.
I must state that the credibility of parole boards, parole in general and medical parole in particular has been questioned on all sides. In the recent past the issue of medical parole has been the subject of heated debate among academics, civil society and others. I must commend the Minister for her courage and outstanding leadership in handling this issue. She has requested the Correctional Supervision and Parole Review Board to review the application of section 79 and to make proposals to the Minister with regard to medical parole in a much broader sense. I am aware that this review was presented to the Minister and other important stakeholders.
Overcrowding is not a new phenomenon in our country. It has existed for a number of years; hence the call for the urgent establishment of a transformed, integrated, modernised, adequately resourced and well-managed criminal justice system. It should be pointed out that overcrowding affects offenders negatively and gives rise to poor staff morale. Offenders must be kept busy with activities and programmes during the day and prisons should be used for sleeping purposes only.
The disjuncture in the budget towards spending on infrastructure and security rather than on programmes that are focused on rehabilitation, as envisaged by the White Paper on Corrections, must be addressed.
Excessively lengthy and pre-trial incarcerations are major causes of overcrowding in our facilities. Most of the awaiting-trial detainees are in custody as a result of delays in the justice system, missing files, absent witnesses and unaffordable bail amounts.
Overcrowding has turned many of our prisons into crime-promoting institutions instead of centres of rehabilitation. However, as the Select Committee on Security and Constitutional Development, we will enhance our oversight responsibility in this area, especially over the implementation of the electronic monitoring of parolees and probationers, as well as the effective implementation of the bail protocol to alleviate overcrowding.
In his address on performance outcomes and measurable outputs, Minister Chabane mentioned that managing crime perceptions is one of the key outputs to ensure that South Africans are safe and feel safe. Therefore it becomes obvious that the way victims of crime are treated in the criminal justice system will have an impact on how they perceive crime and crime control in South Africa. Victims of crime should feel that they are important in the administration of justice in the country.
The Victims' Charter is an important document and it ensures that victims remain central to the criminal justice process in South Africa. I would request the department and the parole boards to consult this important document when they make decisions. [Interjections.]
Regarding the rehabilitation of offenders, the department must do everything possible to initiate processes to honour this obligation. This rehabilitation path is a journey to be undertaken by each offender from the moment of admission to the time of release. The correctional sentence plan should include all interventions aimed at rehabilitating offenders.
Correctional centres, not only in South Africa but across the board, are faced with the same challenge. This is, of course, not a problem of the Department of Correctional Services alone but of the entire justice system. It is therefore important for the justice system to join hands with society, in accordance with the White Paper on Corrections in South Africa. The ANC feels that correcting offending behaviour is the responsibility of society as a whole. Hence, in Polokwane we resolved that in deserving cases alternative mechanisms for dealing with offenders, other than sending them to prison, should be introduced and that we need to encourage community participation in the parole boards, as well as in correction, rehabilitation and reintegration initiatives.