Thousands of correctional services officials were themselves "corrected" in the past three years, according to Correctional Services Minister Sibusiso Ndebele.
In a written reply to a parliamentary question, tabled on Thursday, he said more than 12 000 disciplinary hearings involving prisons staff were held between 2010 and 2013.
The hearings involved cases of both serious misconduct and "less serious" cases, though not all of the latter were preceded by an investigation.
Ndebele said that during the past financial year (2012/13), the department recorded 3 765 disciplinary cases.
According to a table included with the reply, the outcomes of 3 294 of these included that 167 officials were dismissed, 497 were given written warnings, 12 were demoted, and 156 were suspended without pay, as an alternative to dismissal.
According to Ndebele, the difference between the number of cases heard and the number of outcomes was due to some employees being involved in more than one disciplinary case and/or facing several charges that resulted in more than one sanction in the same hearing.
The table in the reply shows that the bulk of last year's cases resulted in the officials found guilty receiving "corrective counselling", or a verbal or written warning.
It does not indicate how many of the cases were for serious or for less serious misconduct.
According to the reply, the total number of disciplinary hearings held in 2011/12 and 2010/11 was 4171 and 4 247 respectively.
According to correctional services' website – which declares 2013 to be "the year of the correctional official" – the department has 41 591 staff. – Sapa