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Legal Aid SA and prisons join hands

By Canaan Mdletshe | Nov 05, 2009 | COMMENTS [ 0 ]

THE KwaZulu-Natal region of the Legal Aid South Africa has embarked on an initiative to visit the Department of Correctional Services' centres.

This is to strengthen synergies and working relationship to assist in speeding up services rendered by Legal Aid SA to clients in their respective centres.

Correctional Services' acting deputy regional commissioner for KwaZulu-Natal Mnikelwa Nxele expressed his appreciation for the initiative that deals with issues concerning both organisations.

Legal Aid SA's KwaZulu-Natal regional operations executive Vela Mdaka gave a comprehensive presentation on their vision, strategic risk, services and programmes they offer to Correctional Services.

Mdaka also explained how a pilot project on suggestion boxes in the correctional services facilities would be rolled out. The project comes about as there have been some problems in receiving feedback from offenders.

"These suggestion boxes (which also carry correspondence by offenders to and from Legal Aid South Africa) will now be monitored on a weekly basis," he said.

"By so doing, we will be improving the interaction between Legal Aid South Africa and its clientele."

The project will start in two big correctional centres (Durban Westville and Qalakabusha) and will later be rolled out to the rest of the correctional centres within the region.

Nxele said there were also issues that needed to be addressed, such as delayed responses to appeal applications, interpreters who are not available to assist inmates who can't speak the language of a lawyer assigned to assist with the representation, and lawyers who never constantly interact or visit offenders in preparation for the case but only show up in courts.

"Also, I request Legal Aid SA to work on clearing the perception by offenders that lawyers assigned to represent them are mostly unfit or not strong enough."


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