‘By the Grace of God’

Staffing Correctional Facilities

‘We run a trouble free centre only by the grace of God.’
— DCS official at South African correctional service centre

Correctional centre staff are vital for the safety, security and rehabilitation of inmates and detainees at South Africa’s correctional centres. Their role is pivotal in ensuring that conditions in correction centres meet the legal standards, and the treatment of inmates and detainees while incarcerated accords with their legal rights. Despite the pivotal importance of their role, very little research has been done on the conditions in which correctional centre staff must perform their functions. The importance of understanding the impact of appropriate staffing, and the problems that understaffing introduces, was heightened with the Department of Correctional Service’s introduction of a new staffing system in 2009, which dramatically impacted how correctional centre staff fulfil their mandate.

Low staffing numbers have negative consequences for the lives of inmates and the work of DCS staff members.

‘By the Grace of God’ is a research report commissioned by Sonke Gender Justice that reveals the impact that the Department’s new staffing roster and shift pattern has had on the daily lives of inmates. The report shows that shift patterns profoundly impact the safety and security of inmates and detainees. The new system has negatively impacted on-duty staff numbers (as the new roster results in more frequent short-staffing) and on staff morale, resulting in many staff members leaving  the correctional services, further exacerbating issues related to understaffing.