Atteridgeville, Pretoria, 12 December 2022 – The launch of the Gender Responsive Correctional Centre for Incarcerated Women in South Africa is the first of its kind in South Africa and the African continent. This Centre responds to the specific needs of women in conflict with the law (WICL) by way of the United Nations Bangkok Rules and the Nelson Mandela Rules.
High-ranking officials from the Department of Correctional Services (DCS), other departments, the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) and stakeholders attended. The Deputy Minister of Justice and Correctional Services, Nkosi Phathekile Holomisa, gave the keynote address.
Chaplain Fezeka Jobela read encouraging scripture from Isaiah 43: ‘Forget the former things; do not dwell on the past. See, I am doing a new thing!’ The Chaplain then lit a candle to commemorate those who passed away. Dr Jane Maria Ong’olo, Regional Representative, UNODC Southern Africa pointed out that female pathways to prison involve victimisation, violence, gender-based violence, poverty, and marginality.
Female offenders and prisoners have different risks and need profiles than their male counterparts for whom prisons were initially designed, and consist of only a small part of the total prison population.
Incarcerated women have the added burdens of inadequate mental health care and being separated from their children. No wonder the suicide rate is 20 times higher for women inside prison compared to those outside. Better alternatives than incarcerating women could help them to transform their lives and re-enter society successfully. Such an approach should be trauma-informed and promote physical, mental, relational, and emotional health. There should be continuity of care when they leave prison, and their peers and communities should be supported.
The Department of Correctional Services is committed to responding to the specific needs of women in such a way that their period of incarceration is conducive to their rehabilitation, development and reintegration into society upon their release. This will be achieved with the support of various stakeholders, especially the UNODC.