n Acta Criminologica: Southern African Journal of Criminology - Secure prisons in South Africa : the super maximum concept

Volume 13, Issue 3
  • ISSN : 1012-8093



To know what prisons were like before the prisons of today we have to rely on the writings of Plato or consult Jewish religious text in the form of the Bible. The deduction one makes is that in earlier times prisons were mainly used for temporary detention pending trial or the infliction of some form of punishment (Morris & Rothman 1995:3). Philosophies shift over time and the continuum of crime and punishment is not immune to these shifts in emphasis. Where the emphasis was placed on shorter periods of incarceration and draconian sentences after guilt was determined in ancient times, we now find that the draconian part of sentencing has moved to extremely long periods of incarceration. Throughout history public opinion and the approach to punishment of offenders by criminal justice agencies showed dominant paradigms. Traditionally, in the field of correctional services, the approach pendulumed between two extremes, namely punishment and treatment. In the view of Morgan-Sharp and Sigler (Muraskin & Roberts 1996:237) it is rare to have one extreme to the exclusion of the other at any stage. Most correctional systems would rather shift emphasis between the two.

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