• July 12th, 2020

Opinion - The emerging child, Namibian Correctional Service

Commissioner Sam T Shaalulange

If there was ever a less known and under-appreciated institution in government, it would be the Namibian Correctional Service (NCS). This last born child of our Criminal Justice System is found under the Ministry of Home Affairs, Immigration, Safety and Security. It is charged with the mandate of providing safe, secure and humane custody of offenders, to rehabilitate them and to reintegrate them into society as law abiding citizens. But to this day,  NCS is only known for ‘guarding’ and ‘locking up’ what some people still term as ‘prisoners’ by ‘prison wardens’. 

Many people even mistakenly perceive the NCS to be a branch under the Namibian Police Force. They are not aware that the organisation is the creature of the Constitution of Namibia, established by Article 121 of the Constitution and is headed by the Commissioner-General of Correctional Service who was also appointed under Article 122. In terms of Article 32(4)(c) the President has power, subject to the Constitution, to appoint on the recommendation of the Security Commission, the Service Chiefs: the Chief of the Defence, the Inspector-General of Police and the Commissioner-General of Correctional Service. 

The Namibian Correctional Service has a dream of being, ‘Africa’s leader in the provision of correctional services’. This vision is supported by the strategy employed within the administration of offenders in order to contribute to the safety of the public by delivering evidence-based rehabilitation programmes to ensure that offenders (not prisoners) undergo rehabilitation programmes while incarcerated in order to ensure effective reintegration into society as law abiding citizens.  To achieve the above, NCS has a mission that commits ‘To provide exceptional correctional services that empower offenders to effectively reintegrate into society as law abiding citizens”. 

Exceptional correctional services include the provision of rehabilitation programmes. The rehabilitation of offenders is a component of the NCS functions which is regarded as critical in ensuring that offenders are not released with the same criminal mindset as they came in. Hence, there is first of all at admission to a correctional facility (not a prison), a comprehensive assessment process of identifying the criminogenic risk factors that led to an offender’s criminal act (s) as well as determining the needs (e.g. employability) that he/she might have had that could also have contributed to their offending.  

This assessment process is critical in determining what type of intervention the offender needs in order to address their risk factors and needs. It is for this reason that the NCS has psychologists, social workers, teachers, spiritual workers, artisans and many other specialized staff to carry out assessments and deliver programmes such as core structured and support programmes. Core structured programmes such as Managing My Substance Use (MMSU), and Thinking and Living Skills (TLS) target high risk offenders, while support programmes such as Motivating Offenders to Rethink Everything (MORE) education and vocational (industrial workshops) and religious care are for all offenders. These programmes are not only meant to address the criminogenic risk factors, but also to avert boredom and to impart knowledge and skills to enhance their potential of becoming law abiding citizens. 

Complementing the rehabilitation component is the mandate of ensuring safe and secure custody which entails that the correctional setting in which offenders are incarcerated should be safe for offenders themselves, correctional staff and visitors against any harm or danger and that offenders should by no means escape from lawful custody. This explains why institutional discipline, security equipment, procedures and rules are so vital in the correctional setting. This mandate also includes the provision of basic necessities such as food, water, bedding, clothing, healthcare and toiletries at government expense with the aim of maintaining humane custody as also provided in the United Nations Standard Minimum Rules for the Treatment of Prisoners, now affectionately known as the Nelson Mandela Rules. 

At the end of rehabilitation, the reintegration process starts. This process requires the NCS to prepare offenders for effective reintegration into society and further supervise offenders who are on conditional release (parole and remission) within the community. Community supervision is aimed at ensuring that these offenders abide by the release conditions and undergo community based programmes which were set and agreed upon to assist them in their adaptation in society. In case the offender who is released on parole or remission fails to comply with the release conditions, that release privilege is revoked and is returned into custody.

With this being said, it can be concluded that the Namibian Correctional Service is evidently a critical public security institution which not only contributes to the safety of the public, but also to the economic development of the country. It is also a professional institution that appreciates individuals and organisations who have interest in conducting research in the area of corrections. It also appreciates those who want to partner in rehabilitation and reintegration programme delivery and those who would like to assist in averting the misperceptions and misconceptions that are causing the Namibian Correctional Service to be undervalued.

Staff Reporter
2020-06-23 12:03:30 | 19 days ago

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