Government turns prison into modern centre of learning

Boksburg – Government is going all out to ensure that when juvenile inmates leave correctional centres, they leave with skills that will help them contribute positively to society.

In partnership with National Application Centre and Department of Correctional Services, the Department of Communications officially handed over a computer lab to the Boksburg Juvenile Correctional Centre.

The computer lab, equipped with 30 computers and laptops, was handed over by Deputy Minister of Communications Stella Ndabeni-Abrahams during an event which coincided with the Human Rights Day on Monday.

The computers form part of the Education for Offenders and Reading Redemption Programme and will ensure that the 217 juvenile inmates serving time can contribute to moving South Africa forward when they are released.

A 22-year-old inmate, Thando Mokoena, said the computers will contribute to their education. He is serving the third year of his 15-year sentence.

“Most of us here were not computer literate and [didn’t know] that we lived in a world of technology. [The computers] will help and prepare us so that when we get released we contribute to the country,” Mokoena told SAnews during a tour of the correctional centre.

He said inmates use the computers to research their projects and type assignments.

Correctional Services National Commissioner Zach Modise said the computer lab was proof that government is committed to rehabilitating offenders.

“This lab will also ensure that we build on our success of matric results.”

The country's inmates who wrote the 2015 matric exams improved their pass rate by 4% to reach an overall pass rate of 73%.

Modise appealed to communities to play their role in the rehabilitation of inmates and support the reintegration of ex-offenders back into their communities.

Speaking at the event, Deputy Minister Ndabeni-Abrahams urged the inmates to use the opportunities available to learn skills so that they can bare testimony that correction centres rehabilitate offenders.

“We do not wish for any of you to come back here. You have been given an opportunity to add value to … the country,” she said, adding that the key to rehabilitation is empowering offenders to have skills to function effectively in society.

“We are a government that believes in all its people, we are a government that believes in second chances.”

The Boksburg correctional centre was designed to hold 2 859 inmates, but over 4000 inmates are imprisoned at the centre.

The hands that used to hurt, steal and kill now participate in skills development programmes such baking, sewing, wood work and steel work which are accredited with relevant Sector, Education and Training Authorities.

Wearing their white uniforms bearing a prison stamp, the inmates make about 2000 fresh loaves of bread for the 5000 offenders in the centre as well as at the Heidelberg Correctional Centre.

The workshop’s steelwork section makes palisade fencing, security equipment, prison beds and garden chairs which are sold to other departments.