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South Africa: large number of juveniles in SA prison system a cause for concern

While South Africans commemorated the youth of 1976 which sparked a revolution, many youngsters charged with violent crimes are still incarcerated in government facilities.

The Judicial Inspectorate Correctional Services (Jics) issued statistics stating that as of May 31, there were 55 children in remand detention, 3 105 juveniles awaiting trial, 42 children sentenced and 1 503 juveniles sentenced. Jics spokesperson Emerantia Cupido said between 2019 and 2020 there were 2 058 sentenced juveniles and 3 724 remand juveniles, 65 sentenced children and 58 remand children.

If we cannot stop the underlying and complex causes of crime, we at Jics advocate for humane conditions of detention and incarceration to provide meaningful opportunities for rehabilitation”. Cupido said if correctional centres created “breeding grounds for rehabilitation”, they could reduce recidivism among youth, potentially curb crime, and the youth could rejoin society as caring and productive people.

Critically, rehabilitation must be coupled with restorative justice, repairing relationships between incarcerated persons, victims and the community. The key to this is tackling the stigma and shame associated with criminality. That requires you and me to stop labelling“ she said,“everyone deserved a second chance, especially the youth.

According to a communication between Sasapo and the Department of Basic Education, the department may support parolees younger than 18 who might go back to school full-time. The department’s director for the Second Chance Matric Support Programme, Dr Sandy Malapile, said those 18 and older could register to write matric exams part-time, and those who needed to rewrite matric could be assisted through Second Chance.

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