Correctional Services

Legislation and policies
Role players
Programmes and projects
Operational structure of correctional facilities



The mandate of the Department of Correctional Services (DCS) is derived from the Correctional Services Act, 1998 (Act 111 of 1998), as amended; the Criminal Procedure Act (CPA), 1977 (Act 51 of 1977); the 2005 White Paper on Corrections; and the 2014 White Paper on Remand Detention Management in South Africa.

The legislation requires the department to contribute to maintaining and promoting a just, peaceful and safe society by correcting offending behaviour in a safe, secure and humane environment, thus facilitating optimal rehabilitation and reduced repeat offending.

The strategic goals of the department are to ensure that:

  • the efficiency of the justice system is improved through the effective management of remand processes
  • society is protected through incarcerated offenders being secured and rehabilitated
  • offenders are reintegrated into the community as law-abiding citizens.

Legislation and policies

In addition to its legislative mandate, the DCS is compelled by the Constitution to comply with the following rights in terms of the treatment of offenders:

  • equality
  • human dignity
  • freedom and security of the person
  • right to healthcare services
  • children’s rights
  • right to education
  • freedom of religion
  • right to humane treatment and to communicate with and be visited by family and next of kin.

Section 63A, Chapter 28 and Section 299A of the Criminal Procedure Act (CPA), 1977 (Act 51 of 1977) [PDF] are of particular importance to the department. It provides for a procedure in terms of which the court may, on application by a head of a correctional centre and if not opposed by the Director of Public Prosecutions concerned, order the release of certain accused persons on warning in lieu of bail or order the amendment of the bail conditions imposed by that court on the accused person.

Section 63A also forms the basis of a protocol between JCPS cluster departments to encourage the use of this provision to assist accused persons who do not pose a danger to society to be released from detention in circumstances where the bail set by the court cannot be afforded by the accused person or his or her family.

Chapter 28 of the CPA of 1977 deals with sentencing and the entire chapter applies to the department’s mandate. Offenders must be detained in accordance with the sentences handed down under this chapter.

The granting of parole and the conversion of sentences to correctional supervision is also done in accordance with this chapter, read together with the Correctional Services Act of 1998.

Section 299A of the CPA of 1977 regulates victim involvement in the decisions of parole boards.

The White Paper on Corrections in South Africa ushered in a start where prisons become correctional centres of rehabilitation and offenders are given new hope and encouragement to adopt a lifestyle that will result in a second chance towards becoming the ideal South African citizen.

The Second Chance Act of 2007 (borrowed from the United States) 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.

The Act 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.

The Criminal Matters Amendment Act, 2015 (Act 18 of 2015) amends the CPA of 1977. The amendments provide for changes to the law pertaining to infrastructure-related offences by making stricter provisions for the granting of bail, the sentencing of offenders and creating a new offence to criminalise damage to, tampering with or destruction of essential infrastructure that may interfere with the provision of basic services to the public.

The Act also aims to create a new offence relating to the essential infrastructure as well as amend the POCA of 1998.


The DCS was allocated R22.8 billion for the 2017/18 financial year. During 2017/18, the DCS placed a partial moratorium on the filling of vacancies except for those posts that were regarded as critical.

Due to reductions in the baseline allocation for compensation of employees, the DCS was compelled to abolish posts by reducing the funded post establishment in line with the Human Resources Budgeting and Planning Tool.

Apart from the capacity challenges as a result of the partial moratorium on the lling of positions the DCS strived to achieve more with less. It has shown commitment in successfully implementing most of its programmes as planned.

Role players

National Council for Correctional Services

The National Council for Correctional Services is a statutory body to guide the Minister of Correctional Services in developing policy relating to the correctional system and the sentence-management process.

Judicial Inspectorate of Correctional Services

The Judicial Inspectorate of Correctional Services was established in 1998 with the statutory objective to facilitate the inspection of correctional centres so that the inspecting judge may report on the treatment of inmates and on conditions in correctional centres. The Judicial Inspectorate of Correctional Services is an independent office.

Medical Parole Advisory Board

The Correctional Matters Amendment Act of 2011 provides for a new medical parole policy and correctional supervision. A Medical Parole Advisory Board was appointed in February 2012 to look into all seriously and terminally ill inmates who have submitted reports requesting to be released on medical grounds.

Correctional Supervision and Parole Board

Correctional Supervision and Parole boards are responsible for dealing with parole matters and matters of correctional supervision. The Correctional Supervision and Parole boards have decision-making competency except:

  • decisions regarding the granting of parole to people who are declared dangerous criminals in terms of Section 286A of
  • the converting of sentences of imprisonment imposed in terms of Section 276 (A) (3) of the CPA of 1998 into correctional supervision
  • decisions with regard to those sentenced to life imprisonment.

In such cases, recommendations are submitted to the courts that in turn will make decision in respect of conditional placement.

There are 53 correctional supervision and parole boards countrywide. These boards are chaired by community members who are regarded as suitable and capable of carrying out the responsibilities by virtue of occupation, standing or cultural reverence. The DCS provides the members with intensive training in respect of the processes, legislative implications and relative policies.

In addition, two members of the community are appointed as members of the board. Trained staff members of the DCS fill the positions of vice-chairperson and secretary.

The board can also co-opt a representative of the SAPS and a representative of the DoJ&CD. However, if the representatives of SAPS and of DoJ&CD are not co-opted to participate in a board hearing, the chairperson of the board may request such departments to provide written inputs in respect of specific serious crimes.

The views of victims of crime are important. As a result, the numbers of victims participating in parole considerations increased eightfold over the past six years, from 253 to 2 279.

As part of its mandate, the DCS aims to improve the effectiveness of the parole system by increasing the percentage of offender profiles submitted by case management committees that have been considered by correctional supervision and parole boards from a projected 89% in 2016/17 to 93% in 2019/20.

In 2016/17, the correctional supervision and parole boards considered 41 000 submissions and approved placement on parole or release of 23 000 offenders. It also referred 1 800 offenders back for further intervention and restorative justice programmes.

In addition, to facilitate the possibility of successful parole, over the medium term the DCS aims to improve the effectiveness of the parole system by:

  • increasing the number of persons placed under the electronic monitoring system, from 870 in 2015/16 to 1 000 in 2018/19
  • increasing the percentage of parolees and probationers without violations, from 95% in 2016/17 to 97% in 2019/20.

Programmes and projects

The Gallows Memorial

The Gallows Memorialisation Project at the Pretoria Central Prison was initiated to honour those political prisoners who were hanged and serve as a reminder to future generations not to take their freedom for granted.

It comprises a memorial and a museum, which includes the death row block housing the gallows where an estimated 130 political prisoners were hanged between 1961 and 1989.

As part of the museum, the chapel at the gallows was renamed the Steve Biko chapel, in memory of all those who died in detention. There is also a garden of remembrance.

A roll of honour with the names of all the political prisoners can be seen at the entrance to the gallows.

Operation Vala

The DCS’s annual Operation Vala (meaning “close”) security campaign results in numerous unauthorised items being confiscated from offenders, as part of search operations to counter offenders’ smuggling contraband at the country’s 243 correctional facilities.

Contraband items can include dagga, television sets, music systems, kettles, cellphones, sharp objects, electrical extensions, cigarettes and alcohol.

The Department continued to implement the annual ‘Operation Vala’ campaign as part of ongoing interventions under the Back-2-Basics security campaign.

This is aimed at ensuring tight security during the end-of-year period: based on historical incidents indicating a spike in escapes, attempted escapes and assaults during the December period. The department has also been actively involved in the development of the government-wide, integrated National Anti-Gang Strategy managed under the auspices of the National Intelligence Coordinating Committee (NICOC).

Mother and baby units

The mother and baby units are separate cells built for mothers incarcerated with babies in correctional centres. This is to allow children as close to normal an existence as possible even if this is under the conditions of incarceration of the mother, while at the same time providing rehabilitation programmes in a centre that enhances their capacity to care for their children.

These facilities were also launched in response to the Child Justice Act, 2008 [PDF]. The Act created an imperative for the department to treat children incarcerated with their mothers in a humane manner.

The facilities cater for children up to two years, after which they are released to a legal guardian chosen or recommended by the mother.

Social reintegration

The community forms an integral part of the rehabilitation of offenders on parole to reintegrate them as law-abiding citizens. Parole is used internationally to place offenders under supervision within the community.

The parole policy provides for credible members of communities to chair the correctional supervision and parole boards, which have been allocated decision-making authority.

The department wants to return rehabilitated offenders to society as healthy and responsible community members.

Parolees who obtained skills in correctional centres are being provided with work tools and start-up kits to start their own businesses.

These include welding machines, sewing machines, carwash machines and vacuum cleaners to create entrepreneurs and employment for parolees.

Rehabilitation activities in correctional centres include correctional programmes, skills development programmes, as well as psychological, social work and spiritual care services.

The department plans to increase the proportion of sentenced offenders assigned to correctional programmes from 72% in 2016/17 to 80% in 2018/19, and maintain the percentage of offenders participating in skills development programmes at 80% over the medium term.

This will be achieved through improving the marketing of programmes, and appointing external service providers to provide more training opportunities for offenders.

Halfway House Pilot Project

The DCS as a parallel intervention, has also partnered with Non-Profit Organisations and established eight Halfway Houses managed by these organisations on its behalf. The Halfway Houses are aimed at assisting the department’s efforts of reintegrating offenders due for parole placement.

Residents of Halfway Houses are offenders who have no verifiable residential addresses or any other related support systems at the time. Since its inception, 342 parolees and probationers have been reintegrated with their families and communities of origin.

Victim-offender dialogue (VOD)

VODs are based on a theory of justice that considers crime, and wrongdoing, to be an  offence against an individual or community, rather than the State. Restorative justice, that fosters dialogue between victim and offender, shows the highest rates of victim satisfaction and offender accountability.

Victim participation intended to facilitate dialogue between offenders and victims about the crimes committed has gained momentum. This is slowly but steadily resulting in the acceptance and successful reintegration of offenders into the communities from whence they come.

In this regard, the DCS has contracted an additional 50 Social Auxiliary Workers for a period of five years, to assist in the implementation of Restorative Justice Programmes. By mid-2018, a total of 6 250 targets were set for victim participation, 13 679 victims participated in the Restorative Justice programmes which represents a considerable achievement.

Educational programmes

As part of rehabilitation efforts, the DCS has established 14 formal schools that provide education up to grade 12 in line with the curriculum of the Department of Basic Education (DBE).

During the 2017 academic year, the DCS achieved a 77% pass rate for Grade 12 with four schools maintaining a 100% pass rate. The partnership with the DBE contributes to this achievement as the department’s educationists are included in training and development opportunities.

The performance information of formal education is as follows:

  • Adult Education and Training: 10 014.
  • Further Education and Training Mainstream Education: 982.
  • Amended Senior Certificate (Old Curriculum ): 838.
  • Higher Education and Training (post-matric studies): 524.
  • Computer-Based Training: 453.

Therefore, the total number of offenders who participated in formal education programmes in the 2017 academic year is 12 811.

Various training interventions for educators who teach life sciences, maths and accounting were undertaken during the academic year.

Offender labour

During 2017/18, the average offender labour per day in production workshops was 1 546 offenders, which declined with 219 offenders as compared to the performance of 2016/17 financial year.

The decline could be attributed to the vacant artisans’ posts, whereas, in agriculture, it was 3 307 offender labour per day, which improved slightly by 39 offenders per day as compared with the performance of 2016/17 financial year.

The improvement could be attributed to an increase in the number of offenders that were eligible to work on farms as part of a concerted effort to market agriculture as a viable source of income after release.

Electronic monitoring systems

The Electronic Monitoring System (EMS), which was launched in July 2014, has enabled the DCS to effectively track an offender or a person awaiting trial on a 24-7-365 basis.

In addition, body-scanning equipment had been installed at Kgoši Mampuru II Prison, Johannesburg, Pollsmoor, St. Albans, Durban Westville, Groenpunt and Barberton correctional facitlities.

Cellphone detection systems were rolled out in new-generation correctional facilities including Tswelopele (Kimberley) and Brandvlei (Western Cape).

Other installations targeted the Johannesburg Management Area and Kgoši Mampuru II Management Area in Gauteng, Pollsmoor and Goodwood in Western Cape as well as Durban-Westville and Umzinto in KwaZulu-Natal. The long-term aim is to install cellphone detection in all correctional facilities.

Automated Fingerprint and Identity System (Afis)

The department initiated the roll-out of Afis in correctional centres around the country. The department’s Automated Personal Identity System, which was developed through the Inmate Tracking Project, was implemented at 32 correctional centres and 99 community corrections offices.

This interfaces with the Department of Home Affairs’ database to verify the identity of offenders.

Operational structure of correctional facilities

Inmates statistics

During the 2017/18 financial year, the DCS had an average inmate population of 160 583 with approved bed space of 118 723.

The department is still faced with a challenge of overcrowding within its correctional facilities, a situation that is exacerbated by the fact that it is compelled to provide accommodation for both sentenced and un-sentenced inmates within these facilities.

Incarceration of inmates

There was a considerable improvement in security which culminated in targets being met/ achieved by 0.030% (50/164 129) regarding escapes and 4.6% (7 474/164 129) regarding inmates injured as a result of reported assaults.

Review of the Criminal Justice System

The three main streams of core business of the department are vested in the budget programmes:

  • remand detention
  • incarceration and corrections
  • social reintegration.

Remand detention

The White Paper on Remand Detention Management in South Africa of 2014 is relevant to the mandate on remand detention and is consistent with the Correctional Matters Amendment Act of 2011 and other relevant national and international legislation and protocols.

The DCS has commenced with the operationalisation of the White Paper through the development of the overarching departmental policy and procedure manuals.

The CRA was successfully rolled out to 22 remand facilities within all six DCS regions across South Africa.

Remand Detention Facilities must, therefore, allow for the minimal limitation of an individual’s rights, while ensuring secure, and safe, custody.

The White Paper is also a response to the challenges posed by a dramatic increase in remand detainees over the past years.

The DCS established a Remand Detention Branch, which became operational in April 2012.

Together with the Criminal Justice Review Committee, DCS has embarked on a process of tracking those remand detainees who have been detained the longest in correctional facilities.

The process assisted in determining the factors, which delay the finalisation of such cases, to ensure that these issues are addressed accordingly.

Health services

In line with the NDP, which envisages a health system that is accessible to all, the DCS provides a comprehensive package of healthcare services (nutrition and hygiene services, pharmaceutical services and primary healthcare) to the inmate population.

In compliance to the National Strategic Plan (NSP) for HIV, TB and Sexually Transmitted Infections (STIs) 2017 - 2022, the DCS continued to strengthen mitigation efforts against the above mentioned epidemics.

The fight against the spread of communicable diseases such as TB and HIV in DCS facilities has improved significantly.

The department achieved a TB cure rate of 87% (636/728) of offenders against a set target of 86% for the 2017/18 financial year, as compared to 83% (1 034/1 250) for 2016/17.

The achievement can be attributed to the collaborative effort between the DCS, support partners and the Department of Health.

It has implemented the directive on Universal Test and Treat for all HIV-positive inmates so as to ensure improved health outcomes.

Thus the number of inmates initiated on antiretroviral treatment increased by 1 936 from 24 506 in 2016/17 to 26 442 in 2017/18.

In meeting the nutritional needs of inmates, 8% (13 489/164 129) of those who qualified were prescribed therapeutic diets.

This enhanced the effectiveness of the prescribed treatment for communicable as well as non-communicable diseases.