oa Fundamina : A Journal of Legal History - Like a bad penny : the problem of chronic overcrowding in the prisons of colonial Natal : 1845 to 1910 (part 1)

Volume 21, Issue 1
  • ISSN : 1021-545X
  • E-ISSN: 2411-7870



During recent decades, like the proverbial bad penny, the problem of chronic overcrowding has turned up over and over again to haunt South African prison administrators. As this article indicates, however, overcrowding in South African prisons is not only a recent phenomenon. Overcrowding has been a significant feature of imprisonment in South Africa from the very introduction of this form of punishment into the country. This article examines overcrowding in the prisons of colonial Natal from 1845 until 1910. Through an analysis of the official discourse surrounding this difficult problem throughout the colonial period, this article shows that imprisonment as a form of punishment in South Africa has always been inextricably bound up with the problem of overcrowding. By illustrating the deeply entrenched nature of the problem from a historical perspective, this article hopes to provide present-day prison administrators with useful insights into the nature of their struggle to overcome the problem. The article is in two parts. Part 1 of the article covers the period 1845 to 1875, while Part 2 covers the period 1875 to 1910.

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