n Acta Criminologica: Southern African Journal of Criminology - Towards conceptual clarity of incarceration and rehabilitation within the South African criminal justice system

Special Edition 2
  • ISSN : 1012-8093



This article is based on research that was started in February 2006 in the Westville Medium B prison near Durban, KwaZulu-Natal. The research was based on interviews with prison officials, prison inmates and medical and auxiliary staff that worked in the prison. After matching some of the official statements with the literature on prisons in South Africa and my personal experiences through visits and interviews in the prisons I considered it necessary to review two widely used concepts that are often spoken about, namely : 'rehabilitation' and 'incarceration'. Both these concepts are predicated upon the notions of conviction and imprisonment. There is an entrenched perception that the three-fold process viz. conviction-imprisonment / incarceration-rehabilitation that offenders undergo prepares them for the return to normal civilian life. However, this article takes the position that against the background of overcrowded conditions, the violence that emerges from it as a result of this, sexual molestation and relationships that lead to the spread of HIV / AIDS, the poor nutrition that inmates receive and the lack of adequate support that is necessary to change inmates attitudes, incarceration is a more real condition in prison than rehabilitation in that the confinement they experience is more inhibitive than rehabilitation suggests.

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