According to the Department of Correctional Services, the centre will pay attention to “women’s special needs, including specific health care needs and guarantee a gender sensitive system of care”.
This is in line with government’s commitment to implement the United Nations Rules for the Treatment of Women Prisoners and Non-Custodial Measures for Women Offenders, also known as the Bangkok Rules.
Holomisa said although South Africa has a smaller population of female prisoners, government is still committed to ensuring that they are incarcerated in humane conditions.
“Government, through its policy reform initiatives, has not relegated women’s prisons to become footnotes in policy reforms. In line with the white paper on corrections, our work ensures that all integrated inmates are held in cells that meet requirements prescribed by the regulations, in respect of floor space, ventilation, sanitary requirements and general health conditions, among others.
“While we acknowledge that we have low percentages of women offenders, our view remains that we don’t want to see women incarcerated in our centres at all. We are engaging with our counterparts in the justice cluster to address the incarceration of women, especially for low level, non-violent crimes so as to fully implement the Bangkok Rules,” he said.
Holomisa said the Atteridgeville Centre is expected to serve as a beacon for how gender sensitive correctional centres should be run.
“Our ultimate goal is to have this facility as an ideal centre where the Bangkok Rules find full expression. We recognise that women require interventions that take into account their gender, as well as their circumstances. Furthermore, their needs are considered, not only while in our centres, but also on returning to the community.
“A number of key features shape the contexts of women’s lives and impact on criminogenic behaviour, including experiences of victimisation, violence, gender-based violence, poverty [and] marginality. As we review our rehabilitation programmes... we must also create mechanisms to provide gender-sensitive rehabilitative programmes,” Holomisa said.
The Minister said the centre will also work towards ensuring that women offenders’ period of incarceration is “conducive towards their rehabilitation, development and reintegration” once they are released.
“Our efforts and policy positions are geared towards addressing and eliminating conditions that are not progressive and fail to advance women rehabilitation. The centre will further prevent harm to women who are incarcerated, their families and communities in general.
“We also want to implore the National Commissioner [Makgothi Thobakgale] and his team to continue addressing obstacles that result in the impingement of women rehabilitation in our centres,” he said.
Holomisa called on all Correctional Services officials to treat all female offenders with dignity and respect.
“Mistreatment of women offenders must never be part of our operations. No woman offender must be deprived of essential health services and other needs. Let us rehabilitate women offenders in a conducive environment so that upon release, they are reintegrated into society to nurture their children and contribute positively into society,” he said.
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