'Free abused female inmates'
CORRECTIONAL Services Minister Sibusiso Ndebele has instructed prison heads to have the sentences of mothers serving less than 24 months converted to correctional supervision.
Ndebele revealed this on Monday during his Women's Month commemoration speech at St Albans Correctional Centre in Port Elizabeth, Eastern Cape.
The minister said women falling into this category "are sentenced by magistrates, and incarcerated for petty crimes, and are serving sentences below 24 months".
"Some of these crimes include shoplifting for supplies for the baby. We have directed that our heads of centres should approach the sentencing magistrates with motivation to convert their custodial sentences into correctional supervision outside the centres," Ndebele said.
- His announcement comes against the backdrop of an increasing number of female inmates, including those serving life sentences for killing their partners.
Of concern, said Ndebele, was the incarceration of daughters along with their mothers as a result of having suffered the same abuse.
"Over the years, we have witnessed an increase in the number of women serving life sentences as a result of killing their partners.
"What is even more disturbing is that some of these women are serving time together with their daughters who assisted them in committing these murders after they themselves were direct or indirect victims of abuse by their fathers," he said.
Ndebele urged women caught up in abusive relationships not to remain in them.
"Our message to women is that you should not remain in an abusive relationship until you get to the point where you take the law into your own hands and commit a crime," he said.
"It is better to leave an abusive relationship or marriage than to stay until you are killed, or you kill your partner and end up in prison.
"We call on women who are living in abusive relationships to seek help now through mediation, relationship counselling and if all fails, for their sake, to walk away from such unions."
- Ndebele's speech also cited women who had landed in prison following a love triangle as cause for concern.
"Another category we are dealing with is that of women in incarceration after being caught in violent conflict with other women due to competition for affection from their male partners.
"Again, in these instances, women need support to gain their own self-esteem as part of the process to correct their offending behaviour," he said.