The spike in crime in South Africa means prisons have run out of space, and the Department of Correctional Services now wants lighter sentences for some criminals.
Department of Correctional Services spokesperson Singabakho Nxumalo said there are 162,875 inmates in South African prisons with only 118,572 beds to house them.
He said this high level of overcrowding creates less humane conditions which results in a lower chance of rehabilitation of criminals.
To resolve this problem the Department of Correctional Services wants fewer criminals to be sent to jail.
According to a report in the Saturday Star, the department wants more inmates to be given parole and lighter sentences like correctional supervision should be given for “lesser crimes”.
Police want longer sentences
The South African Police Service (SAPS), however, does not support this plan and wants criminals to serve longer sentences.
According to the report the SAPS feels that the poor conditions in South African jails can serve as a deterrent to criminals.
It added that more lenient sentences will make it even more challenging to fight crime in the country.
It is not difficult to see why the SAPS wants to come down hard on criminals – their latest figures show a big increase in serious crimes like murder, robbery and sexual offenses.
Some good news is that the total number of crimes reported went down from 2.09 million in 2018 to 2.01 million in 2019.
This can, however, be a result of people losing trust in the system to support victims of crime and to bring criminals to justice.
More jails planned
News24 reported that the Department of Correctional Services has been working on increasing the number of beds in South Africa’s prisons.
This includes increasing the size of current prisons and building “new centres that are rehabilitation-oriented”.
Nxumalo said the new Standerton and Estcourt Correctional Centres were officially opened in April and May 2019.
The department is also awaiting the handover of the Tzaneen Correctional Centre which, combined with the refurbished Glencoe Correctional Centre, will provide an additional 1,101 beds.