Prisons in South Africa's Constitutional Democracy

Prisons serve a set of complex, mutually conflicting and hard-to-achieve goals. Prisons must house people in a humane manner but simultaneously appeal to the punitive nature of prisons — order and security must be maintained while providing an effective deterrent, and appease political opinion. It is in this “inherent policy vagueness” that stakeholders (for example, politicians, bureaucrats and civil society) must find a compromise (Boin, James and Lodge, 2005: 7). Can a constitutional democracy, such as South Africa, find an acceptable compromise, and what would “acceptable” mean under the rules of a constitutional democracy? This report investigate these questions and looks at what are the constitutional requirements for prisons as well as the threats and stumbling blocks en route to meeting these.
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