South African Government

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Correctional Services

Reintegration into communities
Providing needs-based rehabilitation
Role players




The Department of Correctional Services (DCS) is mandated to place offenders in a secure, safe and humane environment, and ensure that rehabilitation and successful reintegration programmes are implemented. This mandate is derived from the Correctional Services Act, 1998 (Act 111 of 1998), the Criminal Procedure Act, 1977  (Act 51 of 1977), the 2005 White Paper on Corrections in South Africa, and the 2014 White Paper on Remand Detention Management in South Africa. This legislation allows the DCS to contribute to the preservation and promotion of a just, peaceful and safe society by ensuring that the corrections environment is secure, safe and humane, and that offenders are optimally rehabilitated to reduce their likelihood of reoffending.

The NDP articulates a vision for a safer South Africa by 2030, and this vision is supported by Priority 5 (social cohesion and safe communities) of government’s 2019 – 2024 MTSF. To give effect to these guiding policies over the medium term, the work of the DCS will focus on providing detention that is humane, safe and secure; providing needs-based rehabilitation; and successfully reintegrating offenders into communities.

Providing detention that is humane, safe and secure

The DCS aims to ensure that conditions of detention are safe and secure, and to maintain the human dignity of inmates, the department’s personnel and members of the public. These considerations give effect to the core functions and bulk of the department’s work. Funding for security operations, facilities, remand detention, offender management, the proper administration and profiling of inmates, and the consideration of offenders for release or placement into the system of community corrections is in the Incarceration programme.

Prison escapes can be largely attributed to overcrowding, the failure of personnel to adhere to basic security policies and dilapidated infrastructure. To improve adherence to security procedures, meetings are frequently held in all correctional centres, and security awareness is provided during morning parades. The DCS provides personnel with appropriate security equipment, such as body armour, ammunition, leg irons, handcuffs, metal detectors, tonfas, gas or fire filters, pepper spray, neutralisers and movable parcel scanners.

To complement this focus on security, R1.6 billion over the medium term is earmarked for the upgrading, rehabilitation, repair and refurbishment of dilapidated correctional and other remand facilities. The completion of these renovations is expected to ease overcrowding, as many offenders have been moved to other centres while facilities are in the process of being upgraded.

Providing needs-based rehabilitation

Although the NDP envisages that offenders should be released and successfully reintegrated into society, the effectiveness of this process largely depends on the quality of programmes offenders receive while incarcerated. Recognising this contingency, the department plays a vital role in rehabilitating offenders and reducing the likelihood of them reoffending by conducting proper assessments and informing them about the programmes and interventions available within their facilities.

These include correctional and skills development programmes, and psychological, social and spiritual care services. Through the improved marketing of skills development programmes, and the appointment of external service providers to provide more training opportunities for offenders, the percentage of offenders participating in skills development programmes is expected to be maintained at 80% over the MTEF period.

Reintegrating offenders into communities

Most offenders find it difficult to adapt when they are released back into society. They are often stigmatised and ostracised by their families and communities, and their ability to find jobs or housing, return to formal education, or build or rebuild individual and social capital is severely hampered. Unless offenders receive help, they risk getting caught up in a cycle of failed social integration, reoffending, reconviction and social rejection.

To ensure the successful reintegration of offenders into communities, all parole considerations should include victim participation to provide a platform for dialogue between offenders and victims, and thereby contribute to healing and restoration.

Management of COVID-19 at correctional centres

The UN Office on Drugs and Crime has emphasised the need to firmly embed correctional centres, inmates and correctional officials into the overall COVID-19 public health response of countries to address the plight of inmates during the pandemic and to mitigate the risk of the pandemic in correctional centres. This should also include vaccination programmes for inmates. South Africa has heeded the call and put measures in place to ensure that everyone is safe.

Correctional facilities are an integral part of national health and emergency planning to deal with the COVID-19 pandemic. Preparedness, prevention and response measures in custodial settings are designed and implemented in line with the Disaster Management Strategy of the DCS. Tailored awareness-raising for all those under the care of the department and transparent  communication channels are equally important to protect their health as well as the health of their families and communities.

In 2020/21, plans were underway to issue 210 communique internally and externally to inform officials, inmates, parolees, probationers and the public on the implementation of its COVID-19 Disaster Management Strategy. Effective communication and timely release of COVID-19 factual information contributes significantly to managing the spread of the virus.


For the 2020/21 financial year, the DCS was allocated R26.8 billion. An estimated 58.4% (R44.7 billion) of the DCS’s spending over the MTEF period is in the Incarceration programme. As a result of Cabinet‐approved reductions to the department’s baseline, amounting to R11 billion over the medium term (R3.3 billion in 2021/22, R4.3 billion in 2022/23 and R3.4 billion in 2023/24), overall expenditure is expected to increase marginally from R25.2 billion in 2021/22 to R25.6 billion in 2023/24.

The reductions are effected mainly on allocations for compensation of employees. To help absorb them, the department plans to intensify its capital investment in self-sufficiency initiatives, including the gradual takeover of the minor maintenance function from the Department of Public Works and Infrastructure. Contracts for non‐essential personnel will be terminated and natural attrition will be allowed to take place, leading to a projected decrease in the number of personnel from 37 836 in 2021/22 to 36 809 in 2023/24. An estimated 67.4% (R51.5 billion) of the department’s expenditure over the MTEF period is earmarked for compensation of employees.

To provide offenders with marketable skills that they can use to create livelihoods after their release, an estimated 34.8% (R1.8 billion) of planned spending in the Rehabilitation programme is allocated for supplies at various sites and production workshops where work opportunities are provided to offenders, such as bakeries, farms and a shoe factory.

The DCS also plans to facilitate restorative justice by increasing the number of victims involved in dialogues with offenders from 3 500 in 2021/22 to 4 700 in 2023/24. These dialogues are budgeted for in the Community Reintegration subprogramme, with an allocation of R199.2 million over the MTEF period. The Social Reintegration programme’s budget over the medium term is R3.6 billion, the bulk of which is allocated to compensation of employees.

The DCS has adopted a proactive approach in mitigating the risk of the spread of COVID-19 in correctional facilities. In this regard, an estimated additional expenditure amounting to R606.94 million was incurred in the 2020/21 financial year. The additional expenditure was reprioritised during the special adjustment budget in 2020 from compensation of employees, goods and services, and payments for capital assets under all programmes, excluding Social Reintegration.

Role players

National Council for Correctional Services (NCCS)

The NCCS is a statutory body that guides the Minister of Justice and Correctional Services in developing policy relating to the correctional system and the sentence-management process.

Judicial Inspectorate of Correctional Services

The JICS 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 JICS is an independent office.

Medical Parole Advisory Board

The Correctional Matters Amendment Act, 2011 (Act 5 of 2011), provides for a new medical parole policy and correctional supervision. The 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 boards have decision-making competency except for:

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

There are 53 correctional supervision and parole boards in South Africa. 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.

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

Source: South Africa Yearbook 2020/21