Minister looks to US laws for guidance on ex-prisoners

Prison authorities are studying legislation in the US for ways to reintroduce offenders back into society.

“As part of the victim-offender dialogues, we must consider this legislation,” Minister Sibusiso Ndebele said in a statement today.

“The Second Chance for Ex-Offenders Act in the US counters the effects of policies which have made it extremely difficult for ex-offenders to re-enter the normative non-criminal community ... We must consider this legislation.”

Ndebele was addressing members of the National Council for Correctional Services during a discussion on overcrowding in prisons, training for the parole board and case management committee, and training for psychologists and social workers.

The minister said it was the department’s responsibility to keep criminals behind bars. However, it also had a duty to help them re-enter society.

“It is still our responsibility to ensure that they do not reoffend. The Second Chance Act may assist in this.”

The act provides programmes and services that help in offenders’ rehabilitation and encourages positive participation within society after their release, he said.

“It eliminates invisible punishment by excluding access to public benefits such as social grants, general assistance, housing and jobs.”

The council is chaired by Judge Siraj Desai. Its purpose is to advise the department on policies regarding the correctional system.

Ndebele asked the committee to “apply their minds” to the Second Chance Act.

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