n Acta Criminologica: Southern African Journal of Criminology - Preventing and managing sex crimes inside correctional centres

Volume 26, Issue 2
  • ISSN : 1012-8093



According to a government study in the United States of America (USA) fewer than three out of every one thousand inmates report sexual abuse. Regardless of the fact that America faces enormous challenges concerning inmate rape, incidences remain underreported. Inmates adhere to a subculture Code of Silence and do not trust staff. This is something that is not limited to the United States alone. In addition, administrative records do not provide reliable estimates of sexual violence in American correctional settings, irrespective of the fact that the USA promulgated legislation in 2003 to address both sexual violence and the measures to report it. The South African correctional system shares certain fundamental characteristics with the system of the USA. These include problems of a sexual nature and incidences of rape, as pointed out by the Commission of Inquiry into Alleged Incidents of Corruption, Maladministration, Violence or Intimidation into the Department of Correctional Services (2005), also known as the Jali Commission. Against the background of evidence before the Jali Commission (2005) and findings about sexual activities in South African correctional centres, the problem of sexual abuse inside correctional centres cannot be ignored any longer. In fact, inmate rape became a serious problem when South African prison gangs literally meted out a 'death sentence' to rival gang members by having them raped by an inmate who is HIV positive. This practice was confirmed by Dr Gideon Morris of the office of the Judicial Inspectorate. According to Morris this type of punishment is called a 'slow puncture' because the punished inmate will die slowly over time by being infected with AIDS. In May 2007 the Criminal Law (Sexual Offences and Related Matters) Amendment Act 32 of 2007 came into being. The Act broadened the definition of rape in South Africa to include forced anal or oral sex, irrespective of the gender of the victim and of the perpetrator. For the first time in South Africa, through this Act, recognition was given to male rape - rape of a male by another male. Specific requirements in the Act have influenced the mandate of the Department of Correctional Services, with a definite effect on incarcerated inmates. According to previous research different sexual interactions and relationships exist between incarcerated men. Most of these interactions are reported to be abusive and exploitative. They involve rape and coercion, and in particular male rape, largely because the inmate population in South Africa is predominantly male. Rape is, however, not limited to male inmates and incarcerated females are also subjected to incidences that can be classified as rape in terms of the 2007 legislation mentioned above. Newly imprisoned offenders are especially vulnerable because they do not know the inmate subculture and are manipulated. The question is: How does the Department of Correctional Services implement the legislation? This article will discuss this form of crime. It will investigate what the views of inmates and staff are concerning the phenomenon, and what could be done in terms of crime prevention. Particular attention will also be paid to already implemented rape prevention strategies in correctional centres elsewhere in order to bring to the attention of political, academic and correctional services management the problem of rape in correctional centres.

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