n Acta Criminologica: Southern African Journal of Criminology - Harm reduction in correctional centres : a South African perspective based on studies in Gauteng correctional centres

Volume 30 Number 5
  • ISSN : 1012-8093


Harm reduction in the South African correctional system has never been adopted as a policy. What is exercised, however, is a health policy that includes certain elements of harm reduction. Despite some expensive inclusions in the health policy approach, for example HIV testing and provision of antiretroviral medication, basic and inexpensive measures to reduce harm are still excluded. One example is the provision of sterilising facilities for tattooing equipment. Another exclusion is the denial of injection drug use inside correctional centres, contrary to evidence that this practice occurs. More complicated exclusions would include the blatant denial of rape, in particular male rape. These matters are dealt with under the umbrella of sexual assault, despite the existence of legislation that clearly makes provision for (male) rape behind bars. Although the Department of Correctional Services has a positive, commendable approach to many aspects of harm reduction, an encompassing harm reduction strategy is urgently needed. As long as matters of harm are dealt with as if they are merely matters of health, no strategy will be sufficient to address the risk inmates are exposed to. This article investigates harm reduction in the South African correctional system. The Gauteng Province (with the largest number of inmates in the country) serves as basis for the study, while national statistics are used to contextualise various harm reduction aspects. Deficiencies in reducing harm are also pointed out.

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