Call to transform Africa's prisons

Pretoria - African leaders in Correctional Services have been urged to spare no effort in transforming the prisons inherited from colonial and repressive regimes into correctional facilities that rehabilitate offenders.
South Africa's acting national commissioner for Correctional Services, Nontsikelelo Jolingana, said some of the challenges that bedevil Africa include overcrowding with remand detainees that constitute up to 97% of people incarcerated in some countries for crimes committed against society.
She was speaking at the African Correctional Services Association (ACSA) Core Members Council (CMC) on Tuesday.
"Our nations committed themselves to spare no effort in transforming the prisons inherited from colonial and repressive regimes to people's correctional systems that are effective in re-humanising our people, whose dignity was ravaged by repressive regimes, poverty, gross underdevelopment and massive inequalities."
Jolingana said offenders must be rehabilitated in order to effectively break the cycle of crime and build safer societies; and promoting social re-integration of offenders to advance the reduction of re-offending rates in societies.
She said since the advent of freedom and democracy in most African countries, good progress has been made in terms of transforming correctional or prison systems.
"In most of our countries, we passed pieces of legislation, policies and regulations that entrenched the human rights ethos and began in earnest with their executing.
"In some instances we even built legislative, judicial and civil society oversight structures that promote good governance and accountability of correctional systems," she said.
According to the acting national commissioner, overcrowding in South African prisons have been reduced by over 30 000 inmates since 2004, while the stance of tougher penalties against all categories of serious crimes remained unchanged.
The prison systems inherited with the ailing infrastructure is also one of the few challenges still continuing to bedevil African prisons.