South African Government

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Correctional Services

Legislation and policies
Providing needs-based rehabilitation
Reintegrating offenders into communities
Ensuring a safe, secure and humane detention
Role players
Programmes and projects
Incarceration of inmates




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. A prescribed in these legislations, the department has to contribute to maintaining and promoting a just, peaceful and safe society by correcting offending behaviour in a safe, secure and humane environment, which allows for optimal rehabilitation and reduced repeat offending.

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) 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 2005 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.


Total expenditure increases at an average annual rate of 6.7%, from R23.8 billion in 2018/19 to R29 billion in 2021/22. However, Cabinet has approved budget reductions of R79.9 million in 2019/20 and R74.3 million in 2020/21 on the department’s budget for compensation of employees. This is due to underspending on the compensation of employees resulting from a moratorium not to fill vacant posts. At the end of 2016/17, the department had 39 259 filled positions out of an approved 41 994; and at the end of 2017/18, the department had 39 520 filled positions out of an approved 41 462. Over the medium term, the department expects a decrease in personnel, from 39 260 in 2019/20 to 39 191 in 2021/22. Nevertheless, as the work of the department is labour intensive, 71.9% (R58.8 billion) of its total budget over the MTEF period will be spent on compensation of employees.

Providing needs-based rehabilitation

Over the MTEF period, the department will continue to ensure that all sentenced offenders are provided with effective rehabilitation programmes to enable their successful reintegration into society once they are released.

This will be done by improving the life skills of offenders through correctional programmes that target offending behaviour, and investing in the personal development of offenders by providing literacy, education and skills competency programmes during their incarceration. Offenders also have access to psychological, social work and spiritual services. Over the MTEF period, the percentage of sentenced offenders in correctional programmes is expected to remain at 80%, as is the percentage of offenders participating in skills development programmes. To provide more training opportunities for offenders over the medium term, the department aims to improve its marketing of skills development programmes and appoint external service providers.

These activities will be carried out in the Rehabilitation programme, which has a total budget of R6.4  billion over  the medium  term.  Of the programme’s total budget, 75.3% (R4.8 billion) is expected to be spent on compensation of employees. The remainder will be used for supplies at various sites where the  department  provides  work  opportunities  to  offenders, such   as bakeries, farms  and  a  shoe factory;  as well  as for rehabilitation workshops.

Reintegrating offenders into communities

For 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. The department has contracted 50 auxiliary social workers for a period of three years, beginning in 2018/19, to assist in reintegrating offenders into communities through these dialogues.

The department plans to increase the number of victims participating in dialogues and other restorative justice programmes from 6 000 in 2018/19 to a projected 7 500 in 2021/22. In its efforts to enable the effective reintegration of offenders into society, the department also provides aftercare support through the facilitation of programmes and skills that seek to assist parolees and former offenders to be self- sufficient. To carry out these activities, R3.3 billion is allocated in the Social Reintegration programme, of which 86.9% (R2.9 billion) is for compensation of employees.

Ensuring a safe, secure and humane detention

The department is committed to creating safe, secure and dignified conditions for inmates and   department personnel, and ensuring the safety of members of the public. To achieve this, the department carries out activities involving: security operations, providing and maintaining appropriate 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. These activities are carried out in the Security Operations; Facilities; Remand Detention; and Offender Management subprogrammes in the Incarceration programme. Allocations to the programme account for 59.8% (R48.7 billion) of the department’s total budget over the medium term.  These allocations are mainly for compensation of employees, spending on which accounts for 73.5% (R35.9 billion) of the Incarceration programme’s total budget over the MTEF period.

Escapes from correctional facilities can largely be attributed to overcrowding, dilapidated infrastructure and officials not complying with basic security policies. To improve security, daily meetings are held in all correctional centres, and security awareness is provided during morning parades. The department also provides security personnel with appropriate security equipment, which includes body armour, ammunition, leg irons, handcuffs, metal detectors, tonfas, gas or fire filters, pepper spray, neutralisers, and movable parcel scanners. To provide for this, R27 billion is allocated in the Security Operations subprogramme in the Incarceration programme.

Three large infrastructure projects in the construction stage are expected to be completed in 2019/20: the Estcourt correctional centre (KwaZulu-Natal), the Tzaneen correctional centre (Limpopo) and the Standerton Correctional Centre (Mpumalanga). The completion of these projects is expected to create 1 531 additional bed spaces. The remaining work on these centres is expected to result in expenditure of R9.5 million in 2019/20 in the facilities subprogramme in the incarceration programme.

Role players

National Council for Correctional Services (NCCS)

The NCCS 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
  • 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 cases such   as the  above-mentioned, 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 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.

During Operation Vala, special emphasis is placed on security measures in correctional centres. This means increased visibility and involvement of managers at all levels in the operational activities.  Focus areas include tightening  security measures, increased supervision of officials as well as decreasing idleness amongst inmates.

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 launched in response to the Child Justice Act of 2008.  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, where possible.

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, car- wash 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.

The DCS aims to enhance the social functioning and reintegration of offenders into communities by increasing the percentage of offenders (inmates, probationers and parolees) who are involved in social work services from 49,4% in 2015/16 to 52% in 2019/20.

Halfway House Pilot Project

The halfway houses offer an opportunity to offenders who meet all the requirements to be placed on parole but do not have fixed addresses that can be monitored.

Halfway houses reduce such offenders’ potential to reoffend because they are given a second chance to experience a home- like environment. A halfway house is considered the final part of an offender’s rehabilitation process.

The DCS has entered into contractual agreements with eight halfway house agencies in different regions to address challenges of offender social reintegration. The department aims facilitate the social acceptance and effective reintegration of offenders into society by increasing the number of parolees/ probationers reintegrated through halfway house partnerships from 111 in 2015/16 to 200 in 2018/19.

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.

Ultimately, every correctional centre will have a VOD Representative Forum.

The VODs provide an opportunity for offenders to meet with victims and account for their crimes, thereby rebuilding the nation. Through the VODs, parole boards and other structures, the department is working towards democratisation and creating more opportunities for people to join the fight against crime.

Over the medium term, the DCS aims to facilitate the social acceptance and effective reintegration of offenders into society by VOD. This will be done, among other things, by:

  • increasing the number of victims/offended persons who participate in restorative justice   processes from 6 491 in 2015/16 to 7 560 in 2019/20
  • increasing the number of inmates/parolees and probationers who participate in restorative justice processes from 3 630 in 2015/16 to 7 560 in 2019/20.

Educational programmes

Correctional  Services  has  placed  education  and  training  at the centre of its rehabilitation, aimed at eliminating illiteracy, underqualifications and  the  absence of critical technical  skills and competencies required for employment or self-employment. The education intervention programmes were strengthened by the introduction of a compulsory education policy in 2012, targeting youth up to the age of 25. The DCS introduced a compulsory education policy to push offenders to join education programmes.

One of the challenges identified included the fact that 35 000 offenders did not even have a Grade 9 qualification, while over 5 000 were completely illiterate – unable to read, write or count.

The DCS aims to enhance the level of literacy, education and skills competency among offenders by:

  • increasing the number of learners completing adult education and training programmes from 10 437 in 2015/16 to 11 741 in 2019/20
  • increasing the number of learners completing further education and training mainstream programmes from an estimated 603 in 2016/17 to 802 in 2019/20
  • increasing the number of offenders participating in skills development programmes from an estimated 8 306 in 2016/17 to 11 054 in 2019/20.

Offender labour

Offenders across the country are giving back to communities and demonstrating remorse for the crimes they committed against them.

Empowering offenders with skills to function effectively in society upon their release is essential to rehabilitation.

The department will continue donating products to disadvantaged communities from time to time to help alleviate poverty.

In line with the National Framework on Offender Labour, the department is increasing the number of offenders who participate in offender labour and skills development programmes.

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.

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.

Incarceration of inmates

The DCS aims to enhance safety and security in correctional centres and remand detention facilities by:

  • managing escapes to remain below 0.035% between 2017/18 and 2019/20
  • reducing the percentage of inmates injured as a result of reported assaults from 5.4% in 2015/16 to 4.7% in 2019/20
  • reducing the percentage of unnatural deaths from 0.038%  in 2015/16 to 0.032%  in 2019/20.

As part of its mandate, the department aims to provide facilities that will contribute to humane incarceration by:

  • managing  overcrowding  to   remain   below   41%   between 2017/18 and 2019/20
  • upgrading facilities and constructing new facilities that will create 1 543 bed spaces between 2017/18 and 2019/20.

Review of the CJS

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 inSouth 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 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, the department 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

To uphold the basic human rights of inmates, the DCS aims to maintain the health and personal wellbeing of inmates by:

  • increasing the percentage of inmates on antiretroviral therapy from 98.1%  in 2015/16 to 99% in 2019/20
  • increasing the tuberculosis (new pulmonary) cure rate from 83.4% in 2015/16 to 89% in 2019/20
  • increasing the percentage of inmates who are involved in psychological services from an estimated 16% in 2016/17 to 19% in 2019/20
  • increasing  the percentage  of  inmates  who benefit from spiritual  services from an estimated 57% in 2016/17 to 62% in 2019/20.

Over the medium term, the DCS aims to improve nutritional services to inmates by maintaining the provision of therapeutic diets at 15% of the total inmate population between 2017/18 and 2019/20.

In keeping with basic human rights, the DCS has pharmacies in its respective regions. Currently there are pharmacies in the Eastern Cape region, with others in East London and St. Albans.

The Free State and Northern Cape, Gauteng and Western Cape each has four pharmacies. KwaZulu-Natal has two, while Limpopo, Mpumalanga and North West each has seven.

Source: South Africa Yearbook 2018/19