Branch Community Corrections hosted three regions for a two-day Restorative Justice orientation session, held from 7 to 8 June 2018, at Modderbee Management Area, Gauteng. The session was a refresher for Community Corrections officials intended to help improve the implementation and enhance participation in Restorative Justice in the department.
Acting CDC Community Corrections Veliswa Mvandaba said that Restorative Justice is part of the department’s mandate to correct offending behaviour and should be at the centre of rehabilitation. She said the orientation session steered by the Directorate Community Outreach was made possible by funding obtained from the Criminal Asset Recovery Account (CARA). CARA is a separate account within the National Revenue Fund into which monies and property are deposited following a judicial confiscation order. The department received R11 million from CARA.
Director Community Outreach Gerson Nevari said that the session was a response to the audit outcomes of the previous financial year. The misinterpretation of performance indicators and inability to reach set targets revealed that there was a need for the team to be refreshed. He said it was also meant to include heads of centres to strengthen and smoothen the working relationship between correctional centres and community corrections in the Victim-Offender Dialogues (VODs).
Despite the importance of its existence, the Community Outreach (Restorative Justice) directorate is currently an out of adjustment directorate. Ms Mvandaba explained that the directorate has no formal structure and no funding model. “CARA funding will not be able to sustain the Restorative Justice programme forever but it will enable us to function and show concrete evidence of the need for our programmes and therefore encourage National Treasury to allocate funds for a formal structure,” she said.
Directorate Community Outreach implements its programmes through 63 Social Auxiliary Workers who have been contracted by the department for three years. They trace and prepare victims for Victim Offender Mediation and Dialogue (VOM and VOD). The Social Auxiliary Workers work together with social workers, psychologists, spiritual workers and heads of community corrections.
Mr Zwelonke Mthembu a social worker at Ncome Management Area, KwaZulu-Natal, said the department should consider having permanent auxiliary workers to ease the workload of social workers in management areas. Mthembu explained that as the only social worker at Ncome, he has to service five satellite offices in his area with the furthest being 200 km away. He said social workers are very limited in the department and resources such as transportation are either unavailable or in a very poor condition. The three-year contract for the current Social Auxiliary workers is ending this year. Deputy Director Client Relations Jeanette Mokoena who facilitates Restorative Justice said the directorate is in the process of filling 20 additional posts that were recently advertised for the current financial year.
The regions shared numerous common challenges but the session was also an opportunity to share best practices. Thohoyandou Area coordinator Social Reintegration Shonisani Tshivbase emphasized the importance of establishing good relations with traditional leaders to pave for smooth reintegration while Daleen Kruger Area Coordinator Development and Care in Krugersdorp encouraged the use of VOD forums to avoid working in silos.
Since 2015, a total of 22 907 victims and 11059 offenders participated in the Restorative Justice programme. Forty six (46) Victim-Offender Dialogue forums were established to manage and prepare stakeholders for victim offender dialogue sessions. This has resulted in the decrease of lifers’ profiles returned for recommendation of VOD.
According to Director Nevari the Community Outreach concept was introduced in order to help the department build its capacity and skills in educating communities about the work of community corrections to change perceptions about offenders released back to society. The directorate complements the efforts of the department in eliminating re-offending and recidivism. It also ensures sustainable social reintegration where the victims and the community are major beneficiaries.
KwaZulu-Natal, Gauteng and Limpopo, Mpumalanga & North West were the first three regions to attend the refresher training since the initial orientation on Restorative Justice in 2015. The Western Cape, Eastern Cape and Free State/Northern Cape regions will also have a session from 14 to 15 June at Grootvlei Management Area in the Free State.