The safety of judicial officers and others using the courts had become a matter of serious concern to the SA government, according to the Minister of Justice and Correctional Services, Ronald Lamola.

Speaking at the AGM of the Judicial Officers Association of South Africa (Joasa) at the weekend, the Minister of Justice and Correctional Services, Ronald Lamola said that a ‘conducive working environment’ needed to be created for judicial officers, witnesses and others. The problem was not just in the big centres; courts in the remote rural areas were among the worst affected.

The relevant departments were working on the issue because it was crucial that people did not feel under threat when they were in the courts. Justice had to be administered ‘in a safe and secure environment,’ he said.

One of his first tasks in his new position had been to receive 400 parole applications, 10 of which were on behalf people sentenced to life imprisonment.

‘I look at them. I see that this person has been with us for 10 or 15 years. He has not gained any skills’, neither training nor education. ‘So I asked, what is this guy going to do when he gets out? The likelihood is that a number of them will definitely go back (to jail).’

He asked whether there was any bar to making vocational or other forms of training available, and concluded that the Correctional Services Act was very clear: ‘It can be done.’ When he asked why it was not happening, he was told that the problem was the ‘budget’. Now he was involved in consultations to see whether a way could be found to institute training. He said when he looked at the figures, some offenders had already been in ‘our facilities’, and some had also planned their crimes in prison.

Plans for training were all the more urgent because of the grave overcrowding in prisons. Official figures put overcrowding at 35 – 37 %, but this was an average and the figures for the big centres were far higher, with ‘Sun City’ almost triple the 1900 inmates it should house and Westville Prison at least double.

  • Legalbrief, 28 July 2019