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n Acta Criminologica: Southern African Journal of Criminology - Community corrections as an alternative to imprisonment in South Africa
In response to South Africa's crime crisis, a new act was introduced that enforces minimum sentences for certain serious offences. The implementation of this act has been one of the leading factors contributing to the current overcrowding in South African prisons.
In an effort to address this problem the Department of Correctional Services has adopted a strategic plan which entails continuously placing probationers, parolees and low-risk awaiting-trial prisoners under community corrections as an alternative to imprisonment.
In the South African context, community corrections is a method of sentencing which allows offenders to serve their sentences in the community under the supervision of correctional officials. There are certain minimum requirements that an offender has to meet before being considered for a sentence or conversion of sentence to correctional supervision. Community corrections as alternative to imprisonment is more cost-effective and less staff intensive than the incarceration of offenders. A major challenge facing the Department of Correctional Services is the fact that a large number of offenders serving their sentences in the community, abscond during their term of community corrections.
When an offender is subjected to community corrections, one of the options that may be imposed is that the offender carries out community service work at an identified institution. Community service is a free service to the community. The type of services required of the person may vary from unskilled labour to skilled labour. An important precondition is that no direct profit may be made by the institution where this service is performed.
Certain recommendations such as the leading role that courts should play in directly sentencing low-risk offenders to community service, are made in this article. Other recommendations regarding further research possibilities are also made.
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