Chief Deputy Commissioner (CDC): Incarceration and Corrections, Samuel Thobakgale, convened a meeting of psychologists, social workers and spiritual care professionals with the aim to find a lasting solution to the challenge of sexual relations between officials and offenders. The meeting held at Kgoši Mampuru II Management Area on 13 May 2021 is part of the Department of Correctional Services (DCS) concerted efforts to curb this prohibited practice which soiled the image of the Department as well as the noble profession of Corrections.
Psychologists, Social Workers and Spiritual Care professionals drawn from all regions of the Department deliberated on casual factors for this deviant and unethical behaviour by few men and women in uniform. The professionals were also called upon to come up with implementable solutions to correct systemic challenges plaguing the corrections environment.
“The session today seeks to get professional views of our social workers and spiritual workers on the unfortunate incidents that have been happening in our centres, where unsavoury relationships between offenders and officials take place and this is projected through the media. It is meant to provide a platform for us, to relook into the relationship between our offenders and officials in the context of our mandate as a department that is charged with the rehabilitation and corrections of those that have been sentenced by our courts, and officials who have been charged with the responsibility to take care of these offenders in a safe environment,” said Thobakgale.
CDC Thobakgale explained that the meeting was also aimed at providing a platform to look into the working conditions and environment of our officials at centre level in general, and female officials in particular.
The professionals were divided into six commissions to interrogate and gain better understanding of the challenge at hand. After exhaustive discussions, each Commission presented their findings and proposals to the plenary. The overarching objective of the Commissions was to come up with practical solutions that can assist the Department and officials to restore their public standing in society, and in the same token, promote social cohesion in the workplace.
Issues reiterated by each commission came back to the change of certain cultural behaviour among officials, need to eliminate certain subcultures within the correctional centre environment, and the imperative to review the DCS Code of Conduct in order to align it to the type of clients it now serves as opposed to the offender it served in the past.
Empangeni Management Area Coordinator responsible for Development and Care, Ms Zama Mbhele, also shared the same sentiments presented by most professionals about the importance of sessions of this nature. ‘’I believe the session held today was effective. When you deal with a problem that is existing in an organisation, you need to start by calling a group of professionals who knows and understands the subject matter better, and gather their inputs, which will inform your strategy moving forward,’’ she postulated.
Ms Zama also added that by the time the findings, plan and campaign by the Department to address the issue reaches the rightful audience, it will yield positive results that will see change take effect. Departmental researchers also participated in the meeting and indicated that the information gathered will be used for future planning, and to find solutions to the problem at hand.