Overcrowding remains the sore finger on the hand of the DCS

Note to editors: The following speech was delivered in Parliament today by the DA’s Shadow Deputy Minister of Correctional Services, Werner Horn MP, during the Budget Vote on Correctional Services.
It is, as has been pointed out here today, commendable that the audit outcome of Correctional Services has improved over the last years. This has allowed us to scrutinise with increased accuracy the performance of this Department.
It is not difficult to identify the sore fingers on the hand of Correctional Services as has been done here today by colleagues like the Honourable Selfe.
At the risk of oversimplifying the problems faced by the Department of Correctional Services (DCS), it must be stated that overcrowding remains the big problem. If addressed successfully, the ripple effect will improve not only the effectiveness of incarceration but also that of rehabilitation and social re-integration. This will simultaneously help to address the constant problems in retaining skilled staff, maintaining staff morale and motivation.
More than twenty years into our democracy, it really is unacceptable that some DCS facilities house two and a half times the number of detainees. They were it was intended for. And it really should not have been necessary for a Judge of the Constitutional Court inspect Pollsmoor and for an NGO to approach our Courts for an order to enforce his findings, to force the DCS to craft and implement plans to reduce overcrowding at facilities in bigger cities.
Chair, to ANC colleagues in committee, rather than using briefings like the one last week on how the DCS responded to the judicial report and order into conditions at Pollsmoor to criticise the judiciary because it has pointed out this sore finger, and rather than proposing that the Correctional Services Act must be amended to take away the rights and duties of our judiciary to visit correctional facilities, we, as members of the Legislature, should be introspective and ask why the judiciary is more effective in pointing out the human rights violations at our correctional facilities and bringing about the changes in living conditions of detainees we also talk about in committee ad nauseam?
I will tell you why. It is because you, as ANC members, are too scared to hold the Executive properly to account. You use your majority to ensure committees pay only lip service to oversight.
But this has now caught up with you. The reality is that if you did not, for the sake of political expediency over the years, create a situation where reporting is deemed to be equal to accounting, the Portfolio Committee could have been the institution issuing all the directives issued to ensure a plan of action was implemented to reduce overcrowding and improve the living conditions in Pollsmoor.
What’s more is that instead of looking failure squarely in the eye and making a promise to yourself to do better going forward, you instead berate the judiciary for overreach and ask why judges are allowed to inspect correctional facilities. This is a sad indication of how unsuited the ANC has become for government in a constitutional democracy.
Proper oversight would long have demanded that the DCS craft and implement the type of plans which was now ordered by our courts.
Proper oversight would long have ensured that the build programme, so necessary to create additional bed spaces, is accelerated beyond the promise recycled every year and presented as a fresh plan to create thousands of bed spaces.
Proper oversight should not be afraid of offending the Executive or finding failure.
Because proper oversight will always strengthen governance.
We need the type of good clean governance that will ensure the capital budget of the DCS is not only spent, but spent in a prudent, responsible manner. Ensuring that the taxpayer gets value for money for every cent allocated to the DCS and earmarked for the building and refurbishment of correctional facilities, the upgrading of IT and other reporting systems, of money allocated for not only the care of offenders, but also their rehabilitation and social re-integration.
This ANC government has shown that it can only talk about the strengthening of governance, but after 2019 a DA-led administration will show that it is possible to deliver.
For the sake of South Africa, we will make Correctional Services work.