n Acta Criminologica: Southern African Journal of Criminology - The transformation of corrections in the new South Africa

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South Africa became a democracy in 1994 after fifty years of Apartheid rule during which a large part of the population had been oppressed. During Apartheid a large portion of the South African population was criminalised through the use of imprisonment. The Department of Correctional Services in South Africa formed part of the security services for many years. Driven by military custom, prisons in South Africa became warehouses for those who opposed the political regime of the time. The South African prison system was rigidly segregated. Details of segregation were specified in the Prisons Act of 1959 (Van Zyl Smit 1998:1). Examples of segregation include separate prisons for white and black inmates, different food rations, where blacks normally received smaller portions, and even different medical and housing schemes for white and black staff members (Republic of South Africa 1959). Ironically, in the face of death all inmates were equal, as black inmates awaiting execution on death row were entitled to rations on the white scale. Democracy brought about the need for transformation. This need cuts through society, but has had particular significance for government departments, which needed to facilitate the creation of a new democratic South Africa. Corrections in South Africa took up this particular challenge. Transformation in criminal justice is not easy. Correctional authorities faced a daunting task to reform the prison system in order to meet international standards.


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