Nicro submission to correctional services portfolio committee

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NameNicro submission to correctional services portfolio committee
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1. Introductory comments
The lack of useful work in correctional facilities remains a major factor mitigating against the smooth running of prisons and making the rehabilitation of offender’s virtually impossible (Corry, 1977:35).
NICRO would like to thank the Portfolio Committee for this invitation, and welcomes the initiative in deliberating about this very important subject of, Inmate Labour and Social Reintegration, that affects the lives of inmates, their families and society in general. The Minster (Budget Vote 18, 2009) expressed the commitment one year ago to research this area and develop a national framework to ensure better utilization of offender labour for the benefit of our communities in the context of rehabilitation, skills development and social reintegration as envisaged in the Correctional Services Act? She stated that the “research must include consultation across the board to accommodate views from as many stakeholders as possible.” This process I assume can be seen to be the start of such a process.
NICRO has actively been working and lobbying in the area of inmate labour for some time (beginnings in 1977). In our last two submissions to the previous Portfolio Committee, in 2007 we made mention that we need to find creative and effective reintegration models that would reduce the rate of recidivism. We also raised the issue of prison labour which can be used as an effective reintegration/rehabilitation tool, and presented the NICRO model for Social Enterprise (NICRO, 2007:1). Based on research, of the SA economy and key growth areas, at the time, potential models of social enterprises proposed by NICRO to the DCS and Portfolio Committee were (i) the establishment of an organic farm at Pollsmoor Prison to supply SA retailers with fresh organic fruits and vegetables; (ii) ‘closed-loop’ recycling business in prison; (iii) the establishment of a call centre inside prison operated by inmates.
NICRO fully supports Coyle’s (2009:87) position that, “prisons should be places where there is a full programme of ‘constructive activities,’ which will help inmates to improve their situation. At the very least the experience of prison should not leave prisoners in a worse condition than when they started the sentence but should help them to maintain and improve their health and intellectual and social functioning.
Judge Van Zyl (Inspecting Judge) in his forward of the Judicial Inspectorate of Prison’s latest annual report (2008/2009, pg 8), suggested that “involving inmates, who are physically and otherwise able, in outside activities such as gardening, farming and productive workshops or factories on the premises of the correctional centres”, could be beneficial to inmates and correctional centre management, by absorbing the impact of overcrowding, and inmates spending 23 hours per day cooped up in communal cells with limited ablution and toilet facilities. According to the Judge, “not only would this have the effect of giving the inmates fresh air and exercise on a regular basis, but it would also contribute significantly to reducing the effects of overcrowding.
In addition the Judge also raised the issue of inmate labour linked to prison self-sufficiency. He stated, “In addition the agricultural production of meat, vegetables and fruit for distribution to and consumption in correctional centres would be in line with the provisions of Section 3(2)(b) of the Correctional Services Act, which requires that the Department must “as far as practicable, be self-sufficient and operate according to business principles.”
Acquiring productive work both in and out of prison is a practical and important step in the successful reintegration of offenders. NICRO has for some time now been avidly interested in developing further this concept of ‘productive work’, with the NICRO social enterprise model, envisaged to benefit inmates, ex-offenders, their families, and victims of crime. NICRO has consulted with a few possible business partners, and has also met with the current Chair of the Portfolio Committee and have held several meetings with the Head and Western Cape regional office of the DCS to discuss possible social enterprise ideas, but have failed to date to concretise a possible partnership.
In South Africa our policies and our law provide for, among other things, the rehabilitation of offenders. They provide for promoting circumstances in which offenders may stop committing crime and may take steps to lead constructive and law-abiding lives in society. The Correctional Services Act 111 of 1998, does make provision in the regulation of ‘prisoner labour’, but further debate needs to ensue regarding any gaps.
The submission includes a 17 pages narrative and 3 appendix attachments.
2. Historical Background
Prison Labour is not a new concept in the world and even in South Africa, has its roots in the 1600’s (Corry, 1977:8). In 1977, NICRO published a book on Prison Labour, by T.M Corry (1977), a criminologist, charted surveyor and businessman who visited a number of prisons in a number of countries. In this book Corry argued at that time that, “although rehabilitation in prison is an elusive goal it is made more difficult by badly organized prison work. He advocated the development of efficient profit orientated employment practices in prison subject to the proper training of prisoners and their protection from exploitation”.
Penologists and prison administrators have long been aware of the importance of work activities as an aid to achieve effective and economic institutional administration (American Correctional Association-Manual of Correctional standards, 1959). There is a recognition of the great potential work programmes have for the building of inmate morale for the maintenance of security and a high level of discipline, and as a means of reducing, or preventing tensions, unrest and even rioting. The principle value of work activity may be found in the opportunity it may afford for the inculcation or reactivation of attitudes, skills, and behaviour patterns which can be instrumental in the rehabilitation of offenders. Although the broad aim of prison labour is the rehabilitation of offenders, prison administrators around the world are particularly keen on the value it has added to ensure the smoother running of prisons, and this can best be achieved by keeping inmates occupied (Corry, 1977:36).

Corry (1977:11) wrote that there was a time in South Africa, and in many other parts of the world when prison labour was well organized, that in many instances a profit was earned and that prisoners were so well trained that on their release employers eagerly sought their labour. Corry argued that the development of trade organizations, both of employers and employees, intent on protecting their own interests, succeeded in killing the potentially beneficial development of prison employment. In the 1970’s already it was increasingly accepted throughout the world, that prison labour should be treated as part of, and not distinct from, the total labour force of a country.
In the 1900’s, inmate labour in South Africa was used in a variety of Public Works and road camps (Corry, 1977:130),1prison industries (127), leasing of prisoners (128), farm labour (129), trade training. Problems with prison labour identified then included: (i) industrial efficiency in prison; (ii) labour supply- short-term prisoners, job allocation, training, working hours, overallocation, motivation; (iii) Work supply-state use, public account, public works and ways, maintenance duties, private employment of prison labour; (iv) Problems of management-old prison, security, prison staff, bureaucracy and prison labour; (v) Training; (vi) Prisoner pay-basis for assessing remuneration, regulations governing expenditure of income, payment of market wages, compensation for industrial injuries; (viii) competition (entrepreneurs and free workers); (ix) idleness in prison (Corry, 1977: 52-85).
2. THEORETICAL PERSPECTIVES: Social Reintegration through Skills Development, Vocational Training, And Productive Work And Employment Opportunities (For Inmates And Ex-Inmates)
According to Corry (1977:37), there are therefore two overlapping purposes for prison labour: (rehabilitation and social reintegration; (ii) organizational and economic purpose of keeping inmates occupied and to some extent making a contribution to the costs of imprisonment.
Figure -Overlapping purposes for prison labour

In order to prepare the prisoner for his or her reintegration into society, skills training and opportunities for employment within prison and upon release are crucial. It should be remembered that employment is only one element of social rehabilitation, and cannot exist in isolation, nor can it attain any significant measure of success as a single intervention for the effective reintegration of offenders. A full response will require opportunities to develop all the skills needed to return to society, and Coyle (2009:89), points out that it is important to bear in mind that differing societies will require differing skills. Other programmes (such as life skills, drug programmes and the like2), which assist and support the prisoner’s successful reintegration are equally important. Labour opportunities in prison must be closely intertwined with the process of reintegration (NICRO, 2007:1), and ex-offenders must be supported through comprehensive pre-release programmes. The formation of strategic partnerships for securing employment for ex-prisoners and providing comprehensive support for the reintegration process is crucial.
Coyle (2009:88) argues that ‘a rehabilitated prisoner is not one who learns to survive well in prison but one who succeeds in the world outside prison on release.’ He argued that activities in prison should focus on giving prisoners the resources and skills they need to live well outside of prison. This means for example linking the work that prisoners do in prison to the work possibilities outside. They should be helped to get the skills and capacity to earn a living and support a family, bearing in mind the discrimination that ex-prisoners are likely to face when trying to find work.
Progressive penal reform shows a general abandonment of the principle that prison labour should serve punitive ends, but rather should serve the purpose of providing at least occupational training and/or experience to facilitate adjustment after release. For many prisoners their time in prison may be the first opportunity that they have had to develop vocational skills and do regular work. The main purpose of requiring prisoners to work is to prepare them for a normal working life on their release from prison, not to make money for the prison administration or to run factories for the benefit of other parts of the Government.
In South Africa, it appears that vocational or trade training and inmate work is not available to all inmates. NICRO believes that the principle aim of inmate labour should be to facilitate rehabilitation and social reintegration. This desirable, but often elusive goal should be sought in a variety of ways and must vary from prisoner to prisoner. Inmates should be matched to ‘suitable jobs and work opportunities, ’based on skills, areas that they show a keen interest to grow in, and that can assist them upon release.
The relationship between unemployment and crime

People sent to prison often come from predominantly households and communities experiencing multiple social and economic disadvantages. Unemployment and the absence of a social infrastructure are common features. In effect, society ends up sending many people to prison because of the failures of social institutions to enable people to successfully avoid crime in the first place. Once in prison there is an absence of any substantial effort to prepare people for a life without crime on release. For many people sent to prison, this compounds previous disadvantage.
Society sees employment as crucial for living a productive and fulfilling life. Similarly, finding a way of earning a living is one of the most important elements of a prisoners ability to reintegrate into society on release from prison, and a critical tool in the rehabilitation process. The rationale for providing employment as part of offender rehabilitation programmes has been based on the assumed relationship between employment, unemployment and crime. McCreary et al (1975: 63) states that,
Employment not only affects an offender’s ability to support himself without recourse to crime, but employment is also a major influence on the nature of his associates, his use of leisure time, his conception of himself and his expectations for the future. It is thus a major rehabilitative tool”.
It is not easy to define the relationship between unemployment and crime. There are multiple causes to crime and subsequently it is difficult to isolate unemployment from other social factors that lead to crime. However, unemployment is interrelated with social and economic deprivation and is therefore one of the causes of crime. The studies reflecting on the relationship between unemployment and crime reveal that this relationship is a complex one as there is other social factors at play that also results in crime. These studies have, however, shown that unemployment does impact on the rise in crime (NICRO, 2007:2).
Whilst employment has merit, it should, however, not be considered in isolation as it is not the only element that facilitates the reintegration of ex- prisoners. Despite it playing an important role in reducing the incidence of crime, employment is not the magic formula to ‘cure’ criminality.Corry (1977:13) basic tenet is, “that all citizens, including prisoners should be willing and enabled to earn their living and contributing to the costs of maintaining the structure of society.”
The relationship between desistance3 and employment

On the other hand several studies have charted the relationship between desistence and employment (all cited in Farrall, 2004:58). Farrington et al.,(1986:351) noted that proportionally more crimes were committed during periods of unemployment than during periods of employment. Sampson & Laub, 1993:220-2) found that desisters were characterized as having “good work habits” and were frequently described as “hard workers.” Horney et al. (1995:665) found that starting work was related to reductions in offending, while ceasing to work was associated with the re-initiation of offending. Uggen (2000) found that those aged 27 and over were less likely to offend when provided with employment opportunities than those who were not offered such opportunities.
Uggen, Manza & Behrens (2004:261), take this argument further by noting that previous research in life course criminology has shown how ‘desistance’ from crime is linked to the offenders successful transition to adult roles (Sampson & Laub, 1993; Uggen 2000). The transition to adulthood is characterised by the attainment of specific behavioural markers. Completing formal education, obtaining a full time job, marrying, and voting are all markers signalling adult status, although their sequence and timing may vary over space and time (Shanahan 2000). The authors found that offenders who establish a stable work history, and a strong marriage appear to have better post-release adjustment than those who have yet to enter such work.
Shadd Maruna (2001:7), a well known criminologist contends that desistence is only possible when ex-offenders develop a coherent pro-social identity for themselves. According to Hagestad and Neugarten, 1985, as cited in Uggen, Manza & Behrens, 2004:262), commitment to work roles (as co-worker, supervisor or employee) and family roles (as spouse or parent) reduces the likelihood of criminal behaviour. Civic participation and reintegration into community life, is linked to the desire to be productive and give something back to society appears to be critical to the desistance process (Maruna, 2001:88). Civil reintegration and the citizen role, as well as work and family roles, may prove central to successful reintegration. The enduring stigma of a incarcerated offender imposes restrictions on parental rights, work opportunities, housing choices and myriad other social relationships, isolating ex-offenders from their communities and fellow citizens (Uggen et al, 2004:263).
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