Work at Sonke

National Prisons Specialist

About Sonke

With offices in Johannesburg, Cape Town and Agincourt, Sonke works globally, and especially across Africa, to strengthen government, civil society and citizen capacity to take action to promote gender equality, prevent domestic and sexual violence and reduce the spread and impact of HIV and AIDS. In this way the organisation contributes to the development of societies in which men, women, youth and children can enjoy equitable, healthy and happy relationships that contribute to the development of just and democratic societies (see This position is a member of Sonke’s Policy Development & Advocacy (PDA) unit but working closely with all of Sonke’s other units and work areas.

About the position

The Policy Development and Advocacy National Prisons Specialist (‘National Prisons Specialist’) coordinates and oversees all aspects of organisation’s national prisons policy advocacy work. The National Specialist will be responsible for policy research and analysis, and the implem entation of various advocacy campaigns within the Policy Development and Advocacy (PDA) Unit. This includes coordinating and developing the One Judge One Jail Campaign, litigation, research, lobbying, media advocacy, development of partnerships, and budget management and reporting. The National Specialist will also engage actively in professional learning and development, and will represent Sonke at various fora and conferences.

Key duties and responsibilities for this position are as follows:

1. National Prisons Law and Policy Work

a. Lead National Prisons Law and Policy work

  • Serve as the lead for the organisation’s policy interventions in prisons and places of detention in South Africa and regionally.
  • Develop and maintain key partnerships with external organisations working on health, rights, sexual abuse, and oversight in prisons.
  • Engage with National and Provincial Departments of Government, including oversight bodies, to propose new policy initiatives and monitor the fulfilment of their duties and implementation of relevant laws and policies, focusing especially on the prisons project advocacy priorities pertaining to sexual violence, HIV and AIDS, TB, human rights and gender.
  • Work closely with the peer educators to provide training to inmates, detainees correctional staff and members of the Judicial Inspectorate for Correctional Services (JICS).

b. Strengthening the Judicial Inspectorate for Correctional Services

  • Conduct research to inform draft legislation to strengthen JICS’ independence and mandate, this includes comparative analysis of best practice across a number of foreign jurisdictions.
  • Work with the Detention Justice Forum to draft new legislation.
  • Advocacy and media content developed.

c. Strategic Litigation

  • Support strategic litigation to promote prisons reform. This includes the litigation to address overcrowding, bail conditions, minimum sentencing, and to prompt legislative reform for JICS.
  • Support will include working with the Community Education and Mobilisation Unit’s prison team to train ex-inmate activists on the cases and support media on the cases, drafting press releases, media pieces, acting as the spokesperson for the cases, liaising with journalists, producing case studies and short pieces on the cases, presenting at conferences, and conducting internal training for Sonke staff.

d. Parliamentary advocacy

  • Track Portfolio Committee on Justice & Correctional Services meetings and submission dates. Relay important dates and circulate relevant reports and PMG minutes to PDA unit.
  • Analyse MPs sitting on the Committee and identify individuals for further engagement.
  • Attend relevant strategic meetings to engage formally and informally with MPs to advance advocacy priorities.
  • Draft submissions to the Portfolio Committee on the Annual Reports of JICS, DCS, and NPA, and make oral submissions as required.
  • Participate in the National Task Team for TB and HIV in Prisons (NTT), the Detention Justice Forum and the South African National AIDS Council.

2. Other Key Programmatic Areas

  • Support other PDA projects and cross-unit collaboration as requested.
  • Project and Grants management and reporting.
  • Support the unit’s resource mobilisation by identifying funding opportunities, developing proposals and budgets, and participating in negotiating agreements with funders, and ensure that grant agreements are implemented.
  • Work with Research and Monitoring and Evaluation Unit and other relevant staff to ensure external evaluations of grants, as well as ongoing M&E is successfully completed.

Qualifications and experience

  • A masters degree in gender, human rights law and or public interest law, or related field
  • 3-5 years of legal and policy work in human rights, with a focus on incarceration and detention
  • Public impact litigation experience is highly recommended
  • Programme development, management and training
  • Legal advocacy experience and the running of independent campaigns in the human rights sector
  • Participation in, or membership of, governmental or semi-governmental bodies on correctional services
  • Legal research and the drafting of memoranda
  • Familiarity with existing South African laws and policies related to gender based violence, prisons, and HIV/AIDS
  • In-depth knowledge of civil society work on prisons in South Africa (regional experience is an advantage)
  • Media engagement and drafting of strategic press releases and popular advocacy pieces
  • Proficiency in at least one indigenous South African language

Competencies and skills required

  • Research, writing, application and thought leadership, with a particular emphasis on intersectionality
  • Written or published articles/papers or developed programmes
  • Engagement with the media and speaking on public platforms
  • Relationship management and can interact at all levels
  • Proven ability to develop and manage strategic partnerships, as well as to build coalitions and networks, particularly within civil society
  • Ability to delegate tasks and responsibilities and follow up regularly
  • Proposal and report writing skills
  • Ability to prepare and give trainings and presentations
  • Ability to work under pressure
  • Willingness to travel

Personal qualities required

  • Confident, assertive communicator who can work comfortably with diverse groups of people, across all levels and various forms of media
  • Emotional intelligence
  • Excellent writing skills in English and preferably, but not required, another SA language
  • Attention to detail
  • Able to prioritise work and manage deadlines
  • Innovative and creative, able to see new opportunities
  • Planning and time management – meets deadlines
  • Reflective, open to learning and to self-care


Cape Town


R438 756 per annum cost to company

Closing Date

25 May 2018