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Sentencing and Incarceration in a Democratic South Africa

Punishment and Incarceration: A Global Perspective

ISBN: 978-1-78350-910-2, eISBN: 978-1-78350-907-2

Publication date: 10 October 2014



In this chapter, the author analyzes sentencing and incarceration practices in South Africa during the last 20 years, a period which saw the country transforming into a fully flexed democracy.


The concepts of sentencing, mandatory minimum sentencing, sentencing of children and incarceration are discussed. The past 20 years of democracy serve as a point of departure for this discussion. The retrospective nature of the adopted approach necessitates a heavy reliance on existing literature, but a statistical analysis is also relied upon. The author also reflects on research conducted during the last 20 years.


While it is almost impossible to duly consider all sentencing-related developments in democratic South Africa, important advances have been made but they were not always systematically followed through. Well-intended policies have at times been poorly executed. Specially, the correctional system destroyed all types of staff motivation through poor human resource practices.


Few scholars have considered the influence of sentencing practices on the South African inmate population, more particularly during the period of democracy that has been running for 20 years. This influence in the South African criminal justice system will be highlighted. The contribution of sentencing in the democratization of the country may be drawn from this discussion. The study may contribute to policy implementation for decades to come and through that, strengthen the South African democracy. At the same time, lessons from South Africa may serve as a roadmap for other young and established democracies.



Luyt, W.F.M. (2014), "Sentencing and Incarceration in a Democratic South Africa", Punishment and Incarceration: A Global Perspective (Sociology of Crime, Law and Deviance, Vol. 19), Emerald Group Publishing Limited, Bingley, pp. 203-225.



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