Communities must not sentence offenders to indirect life imprisonment, the department of correctional services said on Sunday.
"When offenders have paid their dues to society and completed their sentences, please, as communities, let us not continue to, indirectly, impose a life sentence on them outside our correctional centres," said Correctional Services Minister Sibusiso Ndebele.
The department said he was speaking at the graduation ceremony of 302 inmates at Leeuwkop prison, in Gauteng, on Friday.
They had completed various education and skills development programmes, and among them were 49 qualified artisans, and 50 inmates who had completed the artisan development skills programme.
"Let us stand together in the fight against stigmatisation of ex-offenders, and allow their full integration into society by not discriminating against them," Ndebele said
He said prisons were now correctional centres of rehabilitation.
'Becoming ideal citizens'
"Offenders are given new hope and encouragement to adopt a lifestyle that will result in a second chance towards becoming ideal citizens."
He said the department was going to make sure that, on their release, inmates could be productive citizens, not only as job seekers, but also as social entrepreneurs.
He said 522 inmates graduated, in a variety of courses and skills development programmes, from correctional centres in the Free State and Northern Cape on September 10.
The top student was 23-year-old Gcobani Mayoyo, who achieved distinctions in maths, biology, economics and business economics, and B symbols in English and Xhosa, in his matric exams.
"Three years ago, when Gcobani was imprisoned, he had a Grade 11 certificate. Upon release, he left our correctional facility with his matric," said Ndebele.
"Correctional services is assisting him with a bursary, as he intends studying further to become a chartered accountant."
He was released on parole earlier this month.
Inmates' pass rate
Ndebele said that from April 1, it was compulsory for all inmates, without a qualification equivalent to grade nine to complete adult education and training (AET) levels one to four.
This year, 10 393 offenders were registered for AET one to four.
He said inmates' pass rate in the national senior certificate had improved to 79.25% in 2012 compared to 68.06% in 2011.
Correctional services celebrates correctional week from September 26 to October 4.
Ndebele said the aim was to create awareness among communities that corrections were a societal responsibility.
"The emphasis is on communities taking responsibility for correcting offender behaviour through foundation units in the family and community." – Sapa