n Acta Criminologica: Southern African Journal of Criminology - The experiences of student volunteers exposed to a custodial correctional setting in South Africa

Volume 2014, Issue 1
  • ISSN : 1012-8093



Working within a correctional environment requires a special understanding of the core issues that drive the functioning of the Department of Correctional Services (DCS). Assistance to the DCS, whether as a professional, a non-governmental entity, or as a student, is rendered from various fields, disciplines and perspectives. These welcomed efforts enhance the DCS's service delivery and the rehabilitation of offenders. Severe scepticism exists regarding the DCS's functioning, core responsibility and integrity in terms of staff capacity, morale and values. This doubt is often reflected in the magnitude of media reports pertaining to corruption, the effectiveness of rehabilitation, smuggling of contraband commodities and safety and security of inmates and personnel. Adjacent to this is the perturbing staff shortages within the DCS. The rehabilitation of offenders and the DCS staff shortages are a linked phenomena. With this reciprocal relationship, the one affects the other. An optimistic point here is the Unisa Criminology Honours volunteer students' assistance to DCS's staff capacity that provides valuable support to the rehabilitation efforts of offenders. Student volunteers are trained to complete DCS's offender assessment instruments in order to 'assess' offenders' needs and risks. From these assessments unique sentence plans are drawn up for each offender which becomes his or her rehabilitation path while housed at the DCS. This article outlines the origin, background, focus and realities of this exclusive DCS-Unisa student volunteer project. The content of this article draws on the students' initial expectations, personal experiences and value and benefits of being involved in this experiential project.

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