Princeton University in New Jersey, not far from New York in the USA, is ranked as the sixth best university in the world. It is one of the smallest of the so-called ‘Ivy League’ universities, with only 5 000 undergraduates and 2 500 post graduates, but can boast 30 Nobel prize winners amongst its past graduates.1

In 2011, the cost to the US government, per student for that one year at Princeton, was $37 000. In the same year, it cost the US government $44 000 to keep an inmate in prison.2 Meanwhile, in the United Kingdom, (measured in 2012–2013) it cost the British government over £70 000 per prisoner3 - in SA Rand terms, over a million rand.

South Africa has the highest prison population in Africa. The number of sentenced offenders has increased from 91 853, in 1994, to 134 487, in 2004. It then reduced to 112 467 in 2011.4 It is now ranked at 163 015.5 In 2013, the Minister of Correctional Services reported the cost per inmate at R118 512 per annum.6 Do the maths: in 2011 criminals cost the South African tax payer R9.975 billion (never mind the losses suffered in all the criminal incidents) and the figure is rising. The 2016 Annual Report from NICRO, for example, reflects 66 000 arrests every month – and 25 000 imprisonments every month.

The Correctional Services Act 1998 can’t do much about these rather foreboding statistics, but it does address all things to do with prisons – the custody, control and conditions of inmates, correctional supervision, parole, and the like. It falls under the authority of the Minister of Justice.

A. Escaping

  1. Any person who:7
    • escapes from custody;
    • conspires with any person in order for him, or another inmate to escape; or
    • assists or incites any inmate to escape,

    is guilty of an offence.

  2. If you are in possession of any document or article with intent to use it for escape, you commit an offence.8
  3. If you collaborate with an official (or any other person) in order to leave custody without lawful authority, or under false pretences, you will be guilty of an offence.9
  4. Any person who is subject to community corrections and absconds10 is guilty of an offence.11

B. Aiding escape

  1. It is a crime to:12
    • conspire with, or incite any inmate to escape;13
    • assist an inmate in escaping or attempting to escape;14 or
    • supply, or agree to supply, or assist or induce any other person to supply an inmate with any document, disguise or any other article for the purpose of facilitating escape.15
  2. Any person who relays16 any document or article (or causes it to be relayed) into, or out of, any place where inmates may be in custody without lawful authority is guilty of an offence.17

  3. It is a crime to harbour or conceal (or assist in this way) any escaped inmate.18

  4. If you incite a person who is subject to non-custodial measures (e.g. house arrest) to contravene any condition you will be guilty of an offence.19

  5. If you remove an inmate, or allow him to leave the place he is in custody, without lawful authority, you are guilty of a criminal offence.20

C. Prison officers

  1. You may not obstruct an employee or sub-contractor of the Department of Correctional Services (a ‘prison officer’) in the performance of his duties.21

  2. Nor may you threaten, or suggest the use of violence or restraint upon any such prison officer, or any of his family or relatives or dependants, in order to compel him to do, or not to do any act.22

  3. If you threaten to damage the property of a prison officer (or of the Department or a contractor) in order to compel him to do, or not to do any act you will be guilty of an offence.23

  4. It is a crime to assist, conspire with, or induce any prison officer not to perform his duties, or to do any act contrary to his duties.24

  5. It is an offence to participate or assist in or incite the commission of any act whereby any lawful order given to a prison officer may be evaded.25

  6. Any person who incites, or induces any person in custody (or one who is en route from one correctional centre or remand facility to another) to contravene any lawful rule, order, regulation or provision of the Act is guilty of an offence.26

D. Financial interests and transactions of officials27

  1. Any correctional officer or custody official who (directly or indirectly) sells, supplies or derives any benefit from the sale or supply of any article to, or for the use by:28
    • any correctional centre; or
    • any inmate,

    will be guilty of an offence.

  2. It is a crime for any such official:
    • to have an interest in any contract or agreement for the sale or supply of any such article;29
    • to have any pecuniary interest in the purchase of supplies for the Department of Correctional Services;30
    • to receive any discounts, gifts or other consideration in respect of such supplies.31
  3. Officials are also prohibited from having any pecuniary dealing with an inmate,32 or with any other person relating to an inmate, and commit an offence if they do.33

  4. It is an offence for an official to have any unauthorised communication with any person on behalf of any inmate.34

  5. Except for the payment of fines, or for goods purchased in accordance with regulations, it is a criminal offence when money or other consideration is given or promised by or on behalf of any inmate to any official, Department employee or contractor to the Department (a ‘contractor’) - either before, during or after serving a sentence.35

  6. No official, employee or contractor may enter into any business transaction with an inmate.36

  7. It is an offence for an official to pay an inmate any money, or receive or demand any money from an inmate (or other consideration) or undertake any service instead of receiving money or other consideration.37

E. Inmates receiving or sending articles

  1. It is a criminal offence to supply (or cause to be supplied), or hide for any inmate, or place for his use, any document, liquor, drug, money, or any other article.38

  2. If you bring any document, liquor, drug, money, or any other article into, or out of, any place where inmates may be in custody, in order to be sold or used, without authority, you will be guilty of an offence.39

  3. Any correctional officer who allows or participates in any of the above activities is guilty of an offence.

  4. It is a criminal offence for any inmate, without authority, to:

    • give or send (or promise to give or send) any money or any other article to any official as a reward for any service;40
    • enter into any business transaction with any official or employee or contractor;41
    • receive any document, liquor, drug, money or any other article;42
    • arrange with any person for any document, liquor, drug, money or any other article to be sent or conveyed into any correctional centre;43
    • hand to any person any document or other article to be hidden, or placed somewhere for the eventual use by or delivery to an inmate, or another person.44

F. Unauthorised entry and communications45

  1. Anyone who enters any correctional centre without authority commits an offence.46

  2. If you are ordered to depart from a correctional centre by any official or member of the South African Police Service and fail to do so, it is a crime.47

  3. If you communicate with any inmate without authority, you commit a crime.48

  4. The same applies if you interfere with any inmate.49

  5. Any person who has in his possession a sketch, diagram or photograph of a correctional centre, or of any security system, in order to undermine security is guilty of an crime.50

  6. The same applies if you publish any such sketch, diagram or photograph for that purpose.51

G. Publications

  1. It is an offence to publish, without permission, any account of correctional centre life or conditions that may identify a specific inmate.52

  2. It is also an offence to publish, without the permission of the National Commissioner, any account of an offence for which someone is serving a sentence (except if the information published forms part of the official court record).53

  3. No person serving a sentence may derive profit from, or receive any reward or remuneration, directly or indirectly, for any published account of his offence.54

H. Impersonating

  1. It is a criminal offence for any unauthorised person to wear or use:55
    • the uniform, or badges, of the Department of Correctional Services; or
    • the uniform of an inmate, or anything deceptively resembling it.
  2. It is also a criminal offence for any person to masquerade as a Correctional Services or custody official in any other way.56

  3. Any person who obtains an appointment as a Correctional Services or custody official by means of any false representation commits an offence.57

  4. Anyone awaiting trial, who intimidates or conspires with another person to exchange identities, or to defeat the ends of justice, is guilty of an offence.58

I. Access to and disclosure of information

  1. Any official, employee or contractor who discloses information knowing that it may prejudice the powers or functions of the Department is guilty of an offence.59

  2. Any person who gains unauthorised access to any computer programme, or data belonging to the Department, or to which officials have access, is guilty of an offence.60

  3. Any unauthorised person who performs a function on a computer belonging to the Department, or on a computer to which officials have access, is guilty of an offence.61

  4. Any person who modifies the contents of any computer belonging to the Department, or a computer to which only officials have access, in order to impair its function, or the reliability of its data, or to prevent or hinder access to it is guilty of an offence.62

J. Public–private partnership correctional centres

The Minister of Correctional Services may contract with any private party (a contractor) to design, construct, finance or operate any correctional centre. It is a criminal offence for employees of such a contractor to divulge any information they may acquire in the course of their employment for the contract.63

  1. ‘World University Ranking 2013-2014’. 

  2. ‘Prison Costs’. 

  3. ‘National Offender Management Services Annual Report and Accounts 2012-13’. The sum is at combined total of the cost of keeping a place for a prisoner, with the cost of actually keeping the prisoner. 

  4. ‘The State of South African Prisons’, page 5. 

  5. Wikipedia - List of Countries by Incarceration Rate

  6. Loc cit, page 19. 

  7. Section 117(a) and (b). 

  8. Section 117(c). 

  9. Section 117(d). 

  10. And thereby avoids being monitored. 

  11. Section 117(e). 

  12. Section 115. 

  13. Section 115(a). 

  14. Section 115(b). 

  15. Section 115(c). 

  16. The Act does not define what this means. Its (relevant) ordinary meaning is to ‘provide with’ or ‘transmit’. 

  17. Section 115(d). 

  18. Section 115(e). 

  19. Section 114. 

  20. Section 116. 

  21. Section 113(a). 

  22. Section 113(b). 

  23. Section 113(b). 

  24. Section 113(c). 

  25. Section 113(d). 

  26. Section 113(e). 

  27. This also applies to representatives and employees of official departments. 

  28. Section 118(1)(a) and section 121(1). 

  29. Section 118(1)(b). 

  30. Section 118(2)(a). 

  31. Section 118(2)(a). 

  32. Beyond the execution of official duties, that is. 

  33. Section 118(2)(b). 

  34. Section 118(2)(c). 

  35. Section 118(3). 

  36. Section 118(4). 

  37. Section 118(4). 

  38. Section 119(1)(a). 

  39. Section 119(1)(b) and (c). 

  40. Section 120(a). 

  41. Section 120(b). 

  42. Section 120(c). 

  43. Section 120(d). 

  44. Section 120(e). 

  45. Section 122. 

  46. Section 122(a). 

  47. Section 122(a). 

  48. Section 122(b). 

  49. Section 122(c). 

  50. Section 122(d). 

  51. Section 122(d). 

  52. Section 123(1). 

  53. Section 123(2)(a) and (b). 

  54. Section 123(5). 

  55. Section 124(a) and (b). 

  56. Section 125. 

  57. Section 126. 

  58. Section 128A. 

  59. Section 127. 

  60. Section 128(2). 

  61. Section 128(3). 

  62. Section 128(4). 

  63. Section 111.