New prisons chief calls for positive support

NEWLY appointed Correctional Services national commissioner Tom Moyane was introduced to the media at Parliament in Cape Town yesterday, four days after assuming office.

NEWLY appointed Correctional Services national commissioner Tom Moyane was introduced to the media at Parliament in Cape Town yesterday, four days after assuming office.

In his opening remarks was a call on journalists to be more willing to support his department's efforts and to stop portraying prison officials in a negative light.

"Public opinion and public understanding of the criminal justice system is too often misled and confused by the media.

"Negative articles and editorials, along with many television programmes, portray offenders, the prison system, and sometimes even the cops, in the worst light.

"Like the community at large, the media needs to be more willing to support our efforts ... ," he said.

Earlier, introducing Moyane, Correctional Services Minister Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula described him as "a clear-thinking strategist and proven manager". She also warned that he took over at a time when the department was facing "daunting but not insurmountable problems".

According to the departments website, South Africa's overcrowded prisons held, at the end of February, 164706 inmates, including 114071 sentenced offenders and 50635 awaiting-trial prisoners. The total prison capacity is 115118 inmates.

Asked how he planned to tackle the overcrowding problem, Moyane said he was not able to provide "substantive information to the effect that we will be able to do away with overcrowding, (that) it will be there, but on manageable levels".

The problem was "being dealt with and being assessed", but he could not provide a timeline.

"Overcrowding (in prisons) is endemic all over the world ... In our specific conditions, we find that the overcrowding ... is because we form part of the justice cluster."

Correctional Services new chief financial officer, Siphiwe Sokhela, who also started with the department on May 15, was also present. - Sapa

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