Hard-hitting report reveals that South African female offenders are being disadvantaged in prison

Johannesburg – Are South Africa’s female inmates being disadvantaged in South Africa’s correctional facilities compared to their male counterparts?

While a recent report by online publication ‘’The Conversation” indicates that is the case, Correctional Services is in total disagreement.

A hard-hitting report by the online publication indicated that females are being disadvantaged in prison, with Correctional Services limiting their rehabilitation programmes to mostly domestic skills, which includes bead-work, knitting, sewing and laundry, and taking care of the sick.

In contrast, male offenders are allegedly offered a richer array of skills programmes to choose from. This increases their chances of being gainfully employed or self-employed, lessening their chances of re-offending.

The report also indicates that all female offenders are being forced to read the Bible, regardless of whether they are Christian or not.

Correctional Services have, however, rubbished the reports, insisting that female inmates are being offered the same opportunities as their male counterparts.

“There are 13 rehabilitation programmes in the Department of Correctional Services and a long list of skills development programmes available to inmates irrespective of gender,” said Correctional Services spokesperson Singabakho Nxumalo.

“It is a correctional sentence plan that determines what type of rehabilitation programmes and skills development programmes are to be attended by an inmate. It is not a one-size-fits-all.”

Any suggestions that female inmates are limited to domestic skills in prison are nonsense, said Nxumalo.

“There are female inmates who are studying with institutions of higher learning and are making use of the ICT infrastructure that has been made available by the Department.”

“There are programmes and studies aligned to the current economic demands that are available to male and female inmates.”

“We were all shocked when there was a study published stating only bead-work, knitting and sewing as the programmes offered to female inmates.”

“That is not true, and we challenge the researchers and publishers to visit any of the female facilities in the country and see for themselves what is happening in our centres.”

There are currently 4053 female prisoners in South Africa’s prisons, according to Correctional Services.

They are sentenced and unsentenced inmates currently serving time in various female prisons in the country.

Reports indicating that all female inmates are being forced to read the Bible regardless of their religious beliefs have also been rubbished.

According to ‘’The Conversation,’’ in a study they conducted with 18 female inmates in South Africa, it indicated that female inmates had to attend Bible reading sessions regardless of whether they were Christian or not.

“Inmates have a freedom of choice in terms of religion. As a result, they can never be forced to read books against their faith,” said Nxumalo.

The report by the Conversation goes on to say that female inmates argue that they have to fight to overcome barriers.

These barriers include limited access to computers and a conducive learning environment (single cells instead of communal cells). A participant in one of their studies indicated that women sometimes resort to court action to claim their right to education.

But Nxumalo says female inmates are given access to all resources.

“There are resource centres and libraries in all correctional centres. Inmates are afforded an opportunity to even borrow books from the library. Unauthorised content such as pornographer material is not allowed.”

He added that it was also a constitutional right for inmates to enrol for education.

“The Department of Correctional Services only measures the matric pass rate as tertiary studies do not have a timeline like formal schooling (high school).”

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