The Chief Deputy Commissioner: Community Corrections, Phiko Mbambo has in recent months traversed the length and breadth of South Africa, to hand over essential tools of trade and interact with officials working in the Community Corrections space.
In his latest operational visit to Witbank on Tuesday, 06 June 2023, CDC Mbambo convened an interactive session, which was attended by Community Corrections officials from Witbank and Bethal Management Areas under Limpopo, Mpumalanga and North West (LMN) region.
Community Corrections, although at the tail-end of the Offender Rehabilitation Path, is a mirror through which the public see the Department of Correctional Services (DCS). Branch Community Corrections is responsible for providing services focused on offenders’ preparation for release, effective supervision of offenders placed under the system of community corrections and facilitation of social reintegration into their communities. At the centre of these visits is to enable CDC Mbambo to gain useful insight into the dynamics and barriers in the Community Corrections environment, which hinders officials from executing their duties effectively. CDC Mbambo is also using this platform to amplify the importance of implementing the Social Reintegration Framework (SRF) which was approved during the 2020/2021 financial year. The SRF is geared towards repositioning the core functions of social reintegration to create an environment conducive for the successful reintegration of offenders by keeping individuals in the community and offering supervision, interventions and services that are responsive to their risks and needs.
Community Corrections functionaries at the coalface were given the latitude to canvass their views about unique and generic challenges they encounter when doing their work. Officials highlighted a plethora of challenges that they contend with, including, but not limited to:
• Unsuitable office space;
• Prolonged delays in building suitable offices for Community Corrections officials;
• Unreliable energy supply due to loadshedding; and
• Lack of suitable vehicles for the terrain in which they operate.
Articulating the purpose of his visit, CDC Mbambo announced that wide-ranging initiatives are afoot to reposition the Community Corrections system, adding that this can only be achieved by understanding what the officials on the ground need. “The idea is to get an understanding of your needs and not provide things that you are not looking for,” he said. He added that this will be done through the capacitation of Community Corrections units by providing essential resources. “We gave you vehicles previously, and now we are providing you with desktops with Wi-Fi connectivity. We also want to build offices using alternative building solutions because the bulk of the offices you work in are being leased. We want you to work in offices that are closer to the communities you are servicing, in line with the Social Reintegration Framework and Volume 5 of Community Corrections,” outlined CDC Mbambo.
Altogether, LMN Region has been allocated 90 desktop computers which have been fairly distributed based on the caseload of each Community Corrections office.
CDC Mbambo mentioned that he had observed that the working conditions in some Community Corrections offices are not conducive, mainly due to poor infrastructure maintenance by landlords, limited office space to accommodate all the officials, and in some instances, offices that are not strategically located thus hampering easy access to the communities they are supposed to service.
Notwithstanding the challenges highlighted by the officials, CDC Mbambo said he is enthused by the pockets of excellence across all the regions, and commended Community Corrections officials for the good work they are doing. “Even under those trying conditions, colleagues have continued to demonstrate a high level of commitment. All that they need in the main is support, inspirational leadership, and encouragement in order for them to feel that the work they do is important,” he affirmed. He added that the positive work happening derives from the commitment of the National Commissioner, Makgothi Thobakgale, for Community Corrections to be prioritised through the provision of necessary resources.
CDC Mbambo located the strategic role that traditional leaders can play in enhancing the efforts of the Department to successfully reintegrate parolees into the communities, adding that it is vital for DCS to harness the relationship with traditional leaders which has since been formalised by way of a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) signed with the National House of Traditional and Khoi-San Leaders.
The CDC emphasised that these ensuing initiatives mark the beginning of a process to reengineer and gradually introduce a new version of Community Corrections that is sufficiently resourced and in tune with modern trends in society. In pursuit of this vision, CDC Mbambo communicated a desire to see a greater infusion of young people to complement the experienced cohort of officials working under Community Corrections.