Tabling his department's annual budget in Parliament, Masutha said released some shocking figures, indicating that the number of short terms prison sentences were decreasing, but those serving longer terms behind bars continued to swell.
"We are pleased that shorter term sentences keep on decreasing, while long term sentences are on the rise. In the past 13 years (2003- 2016), sentences between six and 12 months decreased by 51 percent and those between 12 to 24 months plummeted by 71 percent," said Masutha.
"What is even then worrying is that sentences between 10 and 15 years increased by 77 percent. The number of offenders sentenced to 20 years and above increased by a staggering 439 percent, whilst lifers grew by 413 percent."
Masutha said this meant that South Africa was becoming a more violent society. The increase in the number of inmates sentenced for serious offences was exacerbating overcrowding in correctional centres which had been badly maintained.
"Nationally our overcrowding is at 137 percent and varies from centre to centre depending on a number of factors including the size and location of the centre," he said.
"Plans are in place to introduce measures that would reduce overcrowding by way of relocating offenders from over-crowded to less crowded centres while effecting necessary and urgent infrastructural improvements and necessary expansion to realise more bed space in response to an ever rising need."