ACJR Publications

This section contains ACJR publications and those of CSPRI (Civil Society Prison Reform Initiative), its predecessor.
[Report] An assessment of the National Preventive Mechanism (NPM) in South Africa
Author: Crystal
Published: Apr 11, 2023

After signing the Optional Protocol to UNCAT (OPCAT) in 2006 and ratifying it in March 2019, South Africa designated a National Preventive Mechanism (NPM), with the SA Human Rights Commission (SAHRC) being the coordinating structure. Since ratification in March 2019, it appears that to date, the NPM has not been fully functional and institutional arrangements for visiting places of detention under the banner of the NPM remain unclear. There is also uncertainty as to how the constituent parts of the NPM will fulfil the responsibilities under OPCAT. In view of the above, the members of the Detention Justice Forum (DJF) agreed to assess the operational functionality of the NPM in the respective sectors of the DJF member organisations. This also provided an opportunity to identify issues for clarification on the NPM’s mandate and its relations with other components as well as government departments responsible for places where people are or may be deprived of their liberty. This report provides the findings of the assessment performed amongst members of the Detention Justice Forum (DJF) based off a questionnaire that was developed. This report was prepared by K Petersen & J Mangwanda, December 2022

Summary report on consultations with civil society stakeholders: “The NPA that we want”
Author: Crystal
Published: Oct 17, 2022

Much of the media attention given to the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) is centered on high-level corruption investigations, especially linked to the Zondo Commission’s findings and recommendations. While this is important, it should also be asked what happens at ground-level in our courts where ordinary cases are heard on a daily basis. The question can indeed be asked: What are our expectations of the NPA when having to engage with the criminal justice system as a victim, witness or even an accused? Do we know what we want from the NPA in real and practical terms? In June and July 2022 ACJR commissioned a series of consultation workshops with stakeholders to discuss these questions and develop descriptions of “the NPA that we want”. The consultations yielded valuable observations and insights, demonstrating on the one hand that people generally have a deep understanding of the challenges facing the NPA and, on the other hand, clear understandings of what they expect of the NPA, especially as these relate to the four core values of professionalism, independence, accountability, and credibility.

Journal Article: Prison protests in South Africa: A conceptual exploration
Author: Crystal
Published: Oct 03, 2022

This article explores the nature and causes of prisoner protests, looking at it first from a sociological perspective and second, a rights perspective. The fact that people end up in prison following due process does not mean that their imprisonment is not a contested arena in the sense that prisoners are generally aware of their rights, even when curtailed. Importantly, this curtailment has boundaries - prisoners do not lose all their rights and it seems that this particular issue is frequently the locus of tension, and sometimes conflict, between prisoners and prison administration. There is nothing in South African law prohibiting prisoners from protesting as recognised by s 17 of the Bill of Rights. However, prisoners, with reference to the right to free speech and the right to peaceful demonstration, find themselves in a situation where they can claim these rights, but the enabling legislation is not only lacking, but there are strong indications that the operational procedures prevent them from exercising these rights. Muntingh, L (2022) Prison protests in South Africa: A conceptual exploration, SA Crime Quarterly, No. 71 (2022)