In terms of the law, there are two alternatives to imprisonment in South Africa, namely correctional supervision and parole, which are exercised by the Department of Correctional Services and is called Community Corrections.
Community corrections is that component of offender control which deals with offenders in the community.
The purpose of community corrections
To provide services and interventions that will contribute to the reintegration of offenders as law abiding citizens into communities by ensuring that probationers are rehabilitated, monitored and accepted by communities.
Correctional supervision is a community-based sentence which is served by the offender in the community under the control and supervision of correctional officials, subject to conditions which have been set by the court or the Commissioner of Correctional Services, in order to protect the community and to prevent recidivism.
Correctional officials working at Community Corrections offices Countrywide are responsible for the performance of various functions with regard to offenders who are serving their sentences in the community. These functions include, inter alias, the following:
· Submission of pre-sentence reports to courts
No court in South Africa may impose a sentence of correctional supervision without a pre-sentence report either by a correctional official or a probation officer.
Staff members with qualifications in behavioural sciences or experts in behavioural/social sciences are placed at courts for the drafting of pre-sentence reports which contain the basic/background information about an accused person, which may assist the court in determining a suitable sentence for the person concerned.
Dealing with persons not sentenced to correctional supervision but only placed under DCS supervision
The following are the categories of the above-mentioned persons:
- Persons under the age of 18 years who, instead of being released on bail, have been placed by the court or SAPS under the supervision of the Department of Correctional Services pending further appearance in court.
- Persons under the age of 18 years who have been placed by the court under the supervision of the Department of Correctional Services.
- Persons above the age of 18 years but under 21 years who have been placed by the court under the supervision of the Department instead of imposing punishment on them.
- Persons to whom bail has been granted on condition that they will be under the supervision of the Department of Correctional Services.
- Persons placed under correctional supervision as a condition for a suspended or a postponed sentence.
Community Corrections Offices is responsible for the supervision of the above-mentioned persons in accordance with the conditions that have been set by the courts. In these cases where the court has left the setting of conditions to the discretion of the Department of Correctional Services, the Head of Community Corrections may set the necessary conditions in order to exercise control over the offender, to protect the community and to address the individual treatment needs of each case. Young offenders in the above-mentioned categories are dealt with in co-operation with the Department of Welfare.
· Setting/Executing of conditions for correctional supervision as a sentence option
Supervision conditions give content to the sentence of correctional supervision. This implies that without conditions one may not talk of a sentence of correctional supervision. These conditions are primarily aimed at exercising control over the offender and protecting the community and on the other hand, they are also aimed at effecting change, reform and rehabilitation of the offender. Compliance with these conditions is managed by the personnel of Community Corrections Offices. The aforementioned conditions include, inter alia, the following:
House arrest refers to that portion of the day/night when the probationer does not work and is compelled to be at home. The period of house arrest of individual probationers may differ.
The possible risk posed to the community is taken into account when determining the probationer’s placement under house arrest. When the condition of house arrest is being set, the offender’s working hours are taken into account in order to avoid conflict between such hours and the period of house arrest. Flexibility is also built into the condition of house arrest to allow probationers to participate in organized sport activities, to attend church services, to do the necessary shopping, etc.
-RESTRICTION TO MAGISTERIAL DISTRICT
This condition is set in order to ensure that the probationer stays in a certain area and to exercise control over the offender.
Victim compensation is a monetary compensation that may be ordered by the court as compensation for a certain loss that has been suffered by the victim. In the case where the court has ordered that the probationer must pay compensation to a victim, the Head of the Community Corrections Office manages payment thereof as one of the probationer’s conditions of correctional supervision. Failure to pay victim compensation as ordered by the court is regarded as a violation of a condition and the Head of Community Corrections takes the necessary steps such as informing the court of the violation and the court may impose an alternative sentence as may deem necessary at that stage.
Community service is a free service to the community which a probationer may be ordered by the court to perform for a fixed number of hours at a community service institution such as a hospital, school, old age home, nature conservation projects or any other suitable institution. It is required of the probationer to render such service in his/her spare time. Community service must be of such a nature that it is to the advantage of the broader community.
-CORRECTIONAL PROGRAMMES AND LECTURES
Probationers may be compelled to attend specialised programmes or lectures on specific subjects. These programmes and lectures are aimed at addressing specific identified needs or problem areas of individual cases with a view to prevent further criminalisation, to foster responsibility, to prevent drug or alcohol abuse, to improve family responsibility, relationships and the acquisition of social skills. These programmes are presented by expert personnel of the Community Corrections Offices. Where such expert personnel are not available, the Head of the Community Corrections Office may arrange for the procurement of the services of external experts.
Other conditions include that probationers must have a job and a place of residence or be physically/financially cared for and that they may not change work or place of residence without prior consent of the Head of Community Corrections. Use/abuse of alcohol, as the case may be, may also be strictly prohibited. Furthermore, probationers must not commit any offence while serving the sentence of correctional supervision.
Parole refers to that portion of the sentence of imprisonment which is served in the community under the control and supervision of correctional officials subject to conditions which have been set by the Commissioner of Correctional Services or his/her delegate.
SETTING AND EXECUTION OF CONDITIONS FOR OFFENDERS PLACED ON PAROLE
The following conditions are normally set for the offenders who are placed out on parole:
· Staying under the supervision and control of the Department of Correctional Services until the expiration of their sentence of imprisonment.
· Restriction to changing place of residence/employer without prior approval of Head of Community Corrections.
· That the offender may not commit any offence whilst under parole supervision.
· Reporting at the Community Corrections Office at set intervals.
· Engagement in certain programmes if this is deemed necessary.
· Home confinement – this refers to that portion of the day/night when the parolee is not working and is compelled to be at home.
· Any other conditions which the Commissioner or his/her delegate may deem fit.
FUNCTIONS TO ENSURE CONTROL OVER PROBATIONERS AND PAROLEES
In order to ensure compliance with the set conditions as far as possible, all probationers and parolees are subject to monitoring which is executed by correctional officials, temporary correctional officials or volunteers who are under the control of the Head of Community Corrections. Monitoring is done by means of:
· telephone contact at home and at work;
· visits to the probationer’s/parolee’s residence;
· visits to the workplace; and
· Compulsory visits by the probationer/parolee to the Community Corrections Office for consultation purposes.
· visits to probationer at a place where he/she renders community service
The degree/category of monitoring is determined by the offender’s possible risk to the community. Supervision/monitoring categories can be divided into three namely, maximum intensive monitoring, medium intensive monitoring and minimum monitoring. The most stringent monitoring category is gradually scaled down to the minimum category of supervision depending on the probationer’s/parolee’s positive co-operation.
EXERCISING CONTROL OVER VIOLATION OF CONDITIONS
The possible successful application and execution of community-based sanctions is dependent on strict control and management of the system. Violation of the conditions by the probationer/parolee does not necessary lead to revocation of correctional supervision or parole but the offender is first given the right to be heard.
Serious or persistent violations of conditions are dealt with as follows:
– In cases where the sentence of correctional supervision was directly imposed by a court, upon violation of conditions, such a case may be referred to the court that imposed the sentence for the consideration of an alternative sentence. Probationers whose sentences of imprisonment have been converted into correctional supervision by the Commissioner or his/her delegate, may be detained in prison in accordance with their original sentences of imprisonment to serve the remainder of sentence of imprisonment. With regard to parolees, the Commissioner or his/her delegate may order that such a person’s placement on parole be withdrawn partially or completely and that the parolee be detained to serve the remainder of the sentence of imprisonment.
DISCUSSION FORUMS FOR THE INVOLVEMENT OF THE COMMUNITY IN CORRECTIONAL MATTERS
In order to involve the community in correctional matters, particularly community corrections, each Community Corrections Office must have a discussion forum which must meet at least quarterly, in which members of the community are involved. The purpose of these forums are mainly to address problems pertaining to the imposition and execution of correctional and parole supervision, to make the community familiar with the activities of Community Corrections, to initiate policy amendments, etc.
PREPARATION FOR RELEASE
AIM OF RELEASE PREPARATION PROGRAMMES
The primary aim of the Release Preparation Programme is to provide the prisoner with intensive treatment during the last phase of his/her imprisonment with the view to preparing him/her for placement under correctional supervision, parole supervision or upon release at expiry of sentence and reintegration into the community.
Release preparation commences approximately ten weeks prior to the prisoner’s placement under correctional supervision or on parole and lasts until two weeks before his/her placement. The object of release preparation is to prepare the prisoner to deal effectively with the problems which he/she may experience while in the community.
CONTENTS OF PROGRAMMES
The programmes consist of basic knowledge and skills which all prisoners in the community require in respect of, inter alia, the following:
· availability of skills training;
· dealing with the stigma attached to imprisonment;
· crisis management;
· family planning;
· alcohol abuse;
· the use of drugs;
· conditions with which the probationer and parolee must comply;
· actions that can be taken against the probationer or parolee upon non-compliance of conditions;
· financial planning;
· street law
External speakers and experts are utilised to present the above-mentioned programmes/skills training.
Before placement in the community, all prisoners are assisted timeously by community integration personnel to find accommodation and work or support and they ensure that it is suitable for that specific prisoner.
An undertaking is obtained from family members/friends to provide the prisoner with moral and other support during his probation or parole period. Support includes the provision of a place to stay, food, basic clothing and support in obtaining employment.
In the case of juveniles, intensive efforts are made to promote family ties, arrange further schooling, etc. Prior to placement under correctional supervision or parole, a prisoner is transferred to the place where he/she intends to settle. In the case of needy prisoners who are placed out, the following assistance is provided:
· a certain amount of cash for expenses;
· the necessary clothing in the case where they do not have suitable clothing;
· food parcels for the journey;
· train or bus fare; and
· tools and work dress for artisans.