The Department of Correctional Services is working to deal with the problem of awaiting-trial detainees who pose little or no danger to society.
In a speech prepared for the start of Corrections Week yesterday, Minister Ngconde Balfour said these solutions included electronic offender-monitoring, reduction of incarceration of both sentenced and awaiting-trial children, and the establishment of an overcrowding task team.
The problems also apply to convicts of petty crimes who cannot afford a fine of R1000 or less.
"The fact that they remain in custody, for sometimes up to six months, is a clear demonstration that structural factors such as poverty are more responsible for their incarceration than the nature of their crimes," he said.
Overcrowding was a feature of prisons worldwide, he said, and new laws, regulations and sentencing powers introduced to deal with crimes like rape, abuse and murder had the effect of resulting in a 67percent increase of offenders within nine years. - Sapa