n Acta Criminologica: Southern African Journal of Criminology - Ethics in corrections - a South African perspective

Volume 16, Issue 1
  • ISSN : 1012-8093



The findings of the Jali Commission on Conditions in South African Prisons, and particularly the Grootvlei scandal, awake everyone all to the reality that ethics is being seriously undermined and denied the South African prison practice. It changed the face of a once proud and dignified South African Department of Correctional Services into a benighted monstrosity.

Taking the content of the previous paragraph and recent news headlines on conditions in South African prisons into consideration, it is evident that there is an urgent need to speak about ethics in corrections and to endeavour to make it work in South African prisons. The crux of the matter is that we have developed awesome hardware, powerful weapons, thousands of new prisons and a cornucopia of new get-tough legislation, but we have not paid similar detailed attention to ethics.
The fact of the matter is that a correctional environment must have an ethical basis because it deals with people. An ethical basis is something that corresponds to values, norms and standards. Ethics in corrections also determine the correctional official's attitude to work, also known as work ethics. It boils down to principled thinking which takes place when people decide to tell the truth, to respect other's rights and to obey a set of moral guidelines - things which will enable the correctional official to act professionally at all times.
In this article the author strives towards creating an ethical system based on the knowledge, the skills and the attitude needed to act ethically. The intention is to include these in the vision, mission and day-to-day operations of correctional facilities. It represents an effort to create an organisation culture, based on ethical principles, to counteract the fast-growing tentacles of corruption in the South African correctional system.

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