n Acta Criminologica: Southern African Journal of Criminology - Criminological assessment of offenders : the academic and forensic role of the criminologist

Volume 16, Issue 5
  • ISSN : 1012-8093



The multidisciplinary approach of the Department of Correctional Services in South Africa has to date excluded the comprehensive role to be played by the criminologist in reforming and analysing offenders. This article therefore emphasises the relevancy of criminology in prison management.

Three main areas of Criminology, namely the sociology of law, theories of crime causation and social responses to crime, often overlap and are inseparable parts of explanation and rehabilitation. But Criminology also has limitations which underline how complex and challenging the field of offender assessment and rehabilitation actually is. The solution to overcoming such limitations is twofold: firstly, a multidimensional approach is required and secondly, specialised training of potential criminologists becomes essential. Based on the dual nature of contemporary criminology that encompasses both the professional and the analytical approach, the actual functions of criminologists are outlined.
It is within the framework of these approaches that criminologists in South Africa identified the need for comprehensive assessment. Based on the work done by Cornwell in the UK, the benefits of including the criminologist in the treatment of offenders in South Africa would appear to include a multidisciplinary approach, the availability of criminologists' useful skills and assistance to relieve the workload of psychologists and social workers in overcrowded correctional institutions and the creation of employment opportunities for criminologists.
Although many countries recognise the role of the criminologist in the criminal justice system, South Africa is an exception. But changes are taking place with the Department of Correctional Services increasingly recognising the contributions to be made by criminologists in the assessment of offenders with the aim of rehabilitating and reintegrating offenders back into the community.

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