Reducing Prison Violence: Implications from the literature for South Africa

Few would argue that prisons are violent places and South Africa is no exception. The consistently high number of deaths and complaints of assaults recorded by both the DCS and the JICS over several years indicate that violence is a “normal” feature of the South African prison system. Amongst all the strategic objectives towards transformation of the prison system and the distractions, the most important objective of any correctional system is to detain prisoners under safe and humane conditions. This, very explicitly, means that individuals, when imprisoned, must not only be safe but they must also feel safe. Regrettably this is not the case and thus the need for this paper to take a closer look at violence in South Africa’s prison system. This is done by reviewing the literature on prison violence to gain a deeper understanding of the problem and also to establish whether there have been any effective measures implemented elsewhere to reduce prison violence. Based on these a number of recommendations are made to improve prison safety in South Africa.

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