Corrections and Punishment Approaches in South Africa

Corrections and Punishment Approaches in South Africa

Christiaan Bezuidenhout (University of Pretoria, South Africa) and Karen Booyens (University of Pretoria, South Africa)
Copyright: © 2018 |Pages: 29
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-5225-2909-5.ch003


In this chapter, the authors focus on corrections and punishment in South Africa by drawing from the historical background of corrections to current punishment approaches. The different punishment eras are described ranging from the Colonial Era to Apartheid and finally Democratization. Within each of these eras the punishment philosophy is discussed. The authors then proceed with a discussion of current punishment approaches, which include incapacitation, retribution, rehabilitation and deterrence, with the last two approaches being applied to the South African context. Regarding deterrence, minimum sentence legislation is used as an example to illustrate how long term imprisonment may deter people from committing crime. However, the consequence of such a punishment approach is the overcrowding of prisons. Rehabilitation of offenders is discussed from the viewpoint of nothing works to what works and includes a description of rehabilitation programs and the introduction of victim-offender-dialogues in South African prisons.
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To contextualize the diversity of punishment influences in corrections and the current criminal justice machinery of South Africa one needs to briefly look at South Africa’s history. South Africa has a rich and diverse history and with that history came different eras of punishment and philosophies. South Africa has a very broad and complex history that has greatly influenced the unique, diverse and democratic South Africa citizens know today. This one of its kind history has influenced South Africa in all facets of life including the current and past punishment philosophies of the country. Historical scripts indicate that South Africa was first habituated by the San and Khoekhoe people (otherwise known individually as the Bushmen and Hottentots or Khoikhoi; collectively called the Khoisan). Both were resident in the southern tip of the continent for thousands of years and both had their own unique systems of punishments before its written history began with the arrival of Africans and Europeans. The Bantu-speaking people or African people moved down into South Africa from the North (West Africa) into the north-eastern and eastern regions before the arrival of the Europeans (Brand South Africa, 2016).

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