Prisoners’ rights are non-negotiable – Mike Masutha

2014-09-26 13:44

The human rights of prisoners must be respected, says Justice and Correctional Services Minister Mike Masutha.

“The human rights of prisoners are non-negotiable,” Masutha told a discussion on building sustainable and humane correctional systems in Africa, at the Kgosi Mampuru Prison in Pretoria today.

The event was held on Africa Corrections Day and formed part of Corrections Week.

Member states of the African Correctional Services Association (ACSA) met in April and pledged to implement an African prison reform programme across the continent.

Masutha quoted the United Nations’ principles for the treatment of prisoners which stated that “except for those limitations that are demonstrably necessitated by the fact of incarceration, all prisoners shall retain the human rights and fundamental freedoms set out in the universal declaration of human rights and United Nations covenants”.

The correctional services department had developed a white paper on corrections in 2005, he said. This promoted a human rights culture in the correctional system.

In 2014 the department approved the white paper on remand detention in South Africa, to close the gap left by the white paper on corrections approved in 2005.

“Incarceration within a safe, secure and humane environment is therefore non-negotiable,” he said.

Correctional institutions were subject to regular inspections to ensure and enforce this.

Masutha said the department had adopted a needs-based approach to rehabilitation.

Eleven correctional programmes addressing different crime categories were implemented.

“We are therefore confident that our holistic approach can make a positive contribution to the rehabilitation and successful reintegration of offenders.”

In line with ensuring the human rights of prisoners, the department had developed strategies to address over-crowding in correctional facilities and to provide effective primary health care.

The department would ensure 64% of offenders completed correctional programmes and that 80% would be enrolled in education and skills development programmes.

In November, a video conferencing system would be launched in 53 correctional supervision and parole board offices.

“This innovation is intended to help reduce the barriers of participation in parole hearings, including physical distance and language barriers to our efforts of prioritising the victims in parole hearings,” said Masutha.

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