The Prison System in South Africa

Understanding the Purpose of Incarceration

There are many opinions of what the purpose of the prison system is, but at the end of the day, the purpose of incarceration is to transform liabilities into contributors through a process.  HOW this is achieved and through what process are questions to which answers appear to remain elusive … or is it a case of society not listening or logic being blocked by emotion? I believe it is a mixture of both and more, ignorance being a major player and shallow thinking at leadership level being another culprit.

Before we can understand the purpose of imprisoning criminals, we need to understand that the criminal and the prisoner are two very different personalities. The issue of crime out on the street, in your home, at your business and in government etc.  needs to be approached in one way and the other, criminals behind bars, in another. The one needs to be hunted down aggressively and the other needs to subjected to a form of justice which punishes but ultimately heals or solves the problem. Prisons are one such form of justice but does the system actually do justice through the process which is in place? In short … NO. It does not.

We need to accept that when a criminal is convicted of a crime, the sentence imposed IS the punishment. What he is subjected to behind those walls over the time he spends there will determine the character which is ejected from that system and returned to society. The criminal is NOT sent to prison FOR punishment. The sentence imposed IS the punishment. What you do with the criminal once you have caught him and made him your prisoner will determine recidivism and all it suggests.


Recidivism is not a problem. Recidivism is an indication that the SYSTEM is a problem. Recidivism is an indication that there is a certain section of our population which is stuck in a cycle of crime. High recidivism rates suggest that the solution is in fact the problem … and a growing one.

If we really want to see results in the fight against crime, we need to think hard about what we do with criminals once we have made them our prisoners.

What Are The Solutions?

Attitude Change Is One Solution

I think I can safely say that South Africa has been financially, emotionally, psychologically and physically abused by criminals. Crime is evident at all levels of society. It is a natural response to be angered and to think of revenge but it has long reached the extent where logic becomes lost and emotion dictates the outcome and the outcome is a repetitive cycle of crime.

Firstly, calling for criminals to be sent to prison and to be subjected to all kinds of harsh treatment sets the victim up to becoming a victim again. Setting emotion aside is imperative when debating crime, the solutions to crime and the incarceration system in our country.

A Few Points to Ponder

  • Crime is a social issue. Its roots lie within society itself. Treating it as something apart from society is destructive.
  • Is it reasonable to remove a person from the norm, place them in an environment which differs to the norm for extended periods of time and expect them to conform to the norm upon their return to it?
  • Effective ‘rehabilitation’ requires that an inmate be subjected to a system seperated from but not fundamentally different to the norm.
  • By continually calling for harsh treatment of prisoners during the incarceration process you are responsible for perpetuating a cycle of crime AND those legacies which oppressed our people.

Crime Line | Anonymous Tip-Off

I’d like to invite you to email me or to place your comments here on this blog post if you would like to get together and debate these issues. If you oppose my views, let’s get together and put our differences on the table.

If you have strong views on crime and incarceration I invite you enter into a discussion with me. Let’s arrange a MeetUp and debate toward one constructive solution. Just because we have different views doesn’t mean we should not tackle those differences without fighting one another. Give me a shout. Let’s talk. (mails via or add your comment below. See also Incarcerattion & the Legacies of Apartheid


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