Imprisonment still not preventing crime

By Drum Digital
03 April 2014

South Africa still has the highest number of inmates. Retribution through imprisonment has not deterred crime.

Retribution through imprisonment has not deterred crime, says Correctional Services Minister Sibusiso Ndebele said on Thursday.

"Since retribution is narrowly focused on 'moral reprobation or outrage against criminal conduct', it fails to adequately reform offending behaviour and to repair harm experienced by victims of crime," he said in a speech prepared for delivery.

South Africa had the highest number of inmates in Africa. "As at 28 March 2014, we had 157,170 people in custody. "Of these, 113,458 were sentenced offenders and 43,712 were remand detainees,"  Ndebele said. It cost taxpayers around R9,876.35 per month for each inmate. However, since 2004, the inmate population had been reduced by 31,000 resulting in a saving of more than R1.4 billion to the fiscus, he said.

"In order for societies to succeed in the fight against crime and eliminate reoffending, victims of crime, offenders, families, and communities need to be active agents." They had to be heard in determining the sanctions against offenders and how offenders could be assisted in righting their wrongs. Ndebele was speaking at an African Correctional Services (ACSA) Ministerial Consultative Forum in Pretoria.

Ndelebe said ACSA had to work together to influence courts to use restorative justice and alternative sentencing. He said Mozambique and Zimbabwe had given more attention to this than South Africa. "Perhaps, this partly answers the question why South African prisons remain over-populated and far higher than Africa's most populous country Nigeria," Ndebele said.

-           Sapa

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