Incarceration & The Legacies of Apartheid


The Incarceration System

A Tool in Addressing the Legacies which Remain

Who can deny that following 49 years of blatant inequality, oppression and suppression of approximately 35 to 40 million people, a nation, there would be legacies which remain following the collapse of Apartheid? Only a fool.

BUT… For how long can the current government hold that regime responsible for those legacies before they themselves (ANC) become accountable for having done nothing to address them? Not for too much longer, I would imagine. It is my opinion and firm belief, that the incarceration system is one crucial ‘function’ of society which can play a huge role in addressing those very real legacies and provide solutions for them.

HOWEVER… THE ATTITUDE (TOWARD THOSE IMPRISONED) OF SOCIETY ITSELF NEEDS TO CHANGE BEFORE THIS CAN HAPPEN. The emotion needs to give way to common sense and sound reasoning. Society needs to be convinced that society itself is responsible for the perpetuation of both the legacies of apartheid and the failure of the incarceration system to deliver results. Because of South Africa’s history, South Africa has specific problems of its own.

It is not necessarily true, although some would have us believe, that a solution to an American, Dutch, Canadian or English problem would serve as a solution to a South African problem. Why are we looking to other countries for solutions instead of scrutinizing our own and arriving at constructive and creative solutions for them. We need to heal and then grow. Our nation remains traumatized – this must change.

ADRESSING THOSE LEGACIES OF THE PAST

Before we can address those legacies, we must identify what those legacies are. However obvious this may sound, the reality is that the majority of us really don’t think that far. For many of us, comprehension comes only with explanation. For this purpose I will attempt to give a brief explanation which I hope will give a clear understanding of the basics of what we are dealing with here. … the legacies of apartheid. Apartheid was designed to provide for a minority of approximately 7 million people and sidelined, by classification, an overwhelming majority of approximately 40 million others. Inequality was the order of the day and as a result the following occured: (Remember that I’m keeping it simple)

1. * A lack of or inferior education of the masses led to unemployment. * Unemployment led to poverty among the majority. * Poverty led to crime … or a culture of crime.

2. * Classification (by skin colour) led to varying levels of suppression and oppression of the masses. * The varying levels of suppression and oppression led to a deep rooted inferiority complex among the majority which remains in evidence today. (Everything is blamed on racism) * That inferior feeling led to anger and resentment.

3. * The Group Areas Act led to the backbone of family life being broken among the masses (Families found themselves seperated). * The broken backbone of family life among the majority led to the damage of the core values of culture which led to – * A lesser emphasis on and respect for moral values and discipline. (Crucify me if you will)

The 3 scenarios described here and the effects thereof are still in evidence today. Sure, there has been much done to ensure improvement, opportunity is out there – but, is it really available to everyone? Does BEE extend itself to grass roots level where it is most needed? Does affirmative action benefit those who live on the fringes of society and where education and delivery remain a promise undelivered?

The truth is the majority of so-called previously disadvantaged remain uneducated, poverty struck, crime orientated, suppressed, inferior, resentful and without moral values and discipline. It should then come as no surprise that hundreds of thousands of these people will be processed through the courts and incarceration system from time to time. And what happens then?

What does the prison system actually do for them? I’ll say it blatantly – it turns them into recidivists, repeat offenders whose crimes become worse in nature – a vicious and repetitive cycle. Do they really deserve this when all is TRULY considered? Does society deserve this? NO! NO! NO! What does society deserve? An incarceration system which makes education compulsory and NOT a choice! A system which instills those core values of a functioning society in touch with its past and present. A system which restores self esteem, gives the individual a sense of worth and demands discipline and respect for the law.

Society needs to demand that prisoners make a contribution, that even while serving their sentences they apply themselves to the norm, adapt to it and conform to it following their release. The tax payer pays billions to catch criminals, but what does society do with them once they’ve been caught? They either forget about them or, true to form, they insist that prisoners be treated harshly, be denied privileges and that conditions be made as such that they never return to crime again.  This is a totally misconceived idea. Let’s talk. See also The Prison System in South Africa

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