ACJR Publications

This section contains ACJR publications and those of CSPRI (Civil Society Prison Reform Initiative), its predecessor.
Policy Developments in South African Correctional Services 1994 - 2002 (Research Paper no. 1)
Author: hannes
Published: Nov 11, 2003

The period 1994 to 2002 in South African Correctional Services history is reviewed in this paper and was prompted by the apparent confusion characterizing correctional policy during this period. During this period substantial policy changes were adopted, such as the privatization of prisons, but with limited debate and oversight. The paper records for historical purposes important trends and mistakes made during this period, but also serve as a clear reminder of the importance of transparent knowledge-based policy development.

Optional Protocol to the Convention against Torture and Other Cruel and Inhumane Treatment (Research Paper No. 2)
Author: hannes
Published: Nov 11, 2003

South African ratified the UN Convention Against Torture in December 1998 and played a significant role in the drafting of the Optional Protocol to the Convention against Torture (OPCAT). The UN General Assembly adopted the OPCAT in December 2002 and since February 2003 the OPCAT has been open for signature. By October 2005 there have been 48 signatures and 13 ratifications. The Protocol requires 20 ratifications to become binding on UN members. The OPCAT is a powerful international human rights instrument as it provides for national and international visiting mechanisms to all places where people are detained. This includes prisons, police cells, immigration centres, and psychiatric hospitals, amongst others. Regular visits to such facilities have been proven as an effective measure against torture and the ill treatment of people deprived of their liberty. This paper investigate the implication for South Africa should it sign and ratify the OPCAT.

A Review of Civilian Oversight over Correctional Services in the Last Decade (Research Paper No. 4)
Author: hannes
Published: Nov 11, 2003

The restricted and hidden nature of the prison regime was dramatically apparent in apartheid South Africa, where prisons shunned outside scrutiny and engagement in all correctional matters. The correctional system was an inherent part of the political apparatus that upheld the apartheid state. Prisoners were segregated according to race, and the staff hierarchy echoed similar racial lines. The adoption of the Bill of Rights in firstly the interim and then the final Constitution in 1993 and 1996 finally established the right of prisoners to be treated with human dignity and set out the mandatory minimum rights of people deprived of their liberty and those held in custody. These guideline principles, later amplified in the Correctional Services Act of 1998, seek to define how the Department of Correctional Services (DCS) should implement its correctional mandate in keeping people in custody. Recognising the importance of accountability and oversight mechanisms in respect of public institutions, the Constitution created vehicles for civilian oversight. Mechanisms were also created to focus exclusively on prisons. A decade after this transition, it is timeous to evaluate how these mechanisms are functioning, and to what extent they are serving their envisaged purpose.

Fact Sheet 18: A guide to reading government annual reports
Author: Janelle
Published:

Government departments use annual reports to report on their performance against set objectives stated in their Annual Performance Plans (APP) and the Medium-Term Expenditure Frameworks (MTEF). Annual reports also serve the function of promoting accountability and transparency which should improve trust and confidence in government’s ability to deliver on services. It is especially for civil society organisations that annual reports can be invaluable when holding government accountable. There are, however, certain challenges that readers of annual reports encounter, most notably the fact that annual reports are generally long and complex. Furthermore, the issue of erroneous and intermittent reporting is cause of concern when it comes to analysing an annual report. This fact sheet serves as a guide on how to read government department annual reports and highlights key issues to consider.

Fact Sheet 18: A guide to reading government annual reports
Author: Janelle
Published:

Government departments use annual reports to report on their performance against set objectives stated in their Annual Performance Plans (APP) and the Medium-Term Expenditure Frameworks (MTEF). Annual reports also serve the function of promoting accountability and transparency which should improve trust and confidence in government’s ability to deliver on services. It is especially for civil society organisations that annual reports can be invaluable when holding government accountable. There are, however, certain challenges that readers of annual reports encounter, most notably the fact that annual reports are generally long and complex. Furthermore, the issue of erroneous and intermittent reporting is cause of concern when it comes to analysing an annual report. This fact sheet serves as a guide on how to read government department annual reports and highlights key issues to consider.

Journal Article: Africa, Prisons and COVID-19
Author: Crystal
Published:

Africa’s prisons are a long-standing concern for rights defenders given the prevalence of rights abuses, overcrowding, poor conditions of detention and the extent to which the criminal justice system is used to target the poor. The paper surveys 24 southern and east African countries within the context of COVID-19. Between 5 March and 15 April 2020 COVID-19 had spread to 23 southern and east African countries, except Lesotho. The overwhelming majority of these countries imposed general restrictions on their populations from March 2020 and nearly all restricted visits to prisons to prevent the spread of the coronavirus. The pandemic and government responses demonstrated the importance of reliable and up to date data on the prison population, and any confined population, as it became evident that such information is sorely lacking. The World Health Organization recommended the release of prisoners to ease congestion, a step supported by the UN Subcommittee on Prevention of Torture. However, the lack of data and the particular African context pose some questions about the desirability of such a move. The curtailment of prison visits by external persons also did away with independent oversight even in states parties to the Optional Protocol to the Convention against Torture (OPCAT). In the case of South Africa, prison monitors were not listed in the ensuing legislation as part of essential services and thus were excluded from access to prisons. In the case of Mozambique, it was funding being placed on hold by the donor community that prevented the Human Rights Commission from visiting prisons. The COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted long-standing systemic problems in Africa’s prisons. Yet African states have remained remarkably reluctant to engage in prison reform, despite the fact that poorly managed prisons pose a significant threat to general public health care.

Journal Article: Africa, Prisons and COVID-19
Author: Crystal
Published:

Africa’s prisons are a long-standing concern for rights defenders given the prevalence of rights abuses, overcrowding, poor conditions of detention and the extent to which the criminal justice system is used to target the poor. The paper surveys 24 southern and east African countries within the context of COVID-19. Between 5 March and 15 April 2020 COVID-19 had spread to 23 southern and east African countries, except Lesotho. The overwhelming majority of these countries imposed general restrictions on their populations from March 2020 and nearly all restricted visits to prisons to prevent the spread of the coronavirus. The pandemic and government responses demonstrated the importance of reliable and up to date data on the prison population, and any confined population, as it became evident that such information is sorely lacking. The World Health Organization recommended the release of prisoners to ease congestion, a step supported by the UN Subcommittee on Prevention of Torture. However, the lack of data and the particular African context pose some questions about the desirability of such a move. The curtailment of prison visits by external persons also did away with independent oversight even in states parties to the Optional Protocol to the Convention against Torture (OPCAT). In the case of South Africa, prison monitors were not listed in the ensuing legislation as part of essential services and thus were excluded from access to prisons. In the case of Mozambique, it was funding being placed on hold by the donor community that prevented the Human Rights Commission from visiting prisons. The COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted long-standing systemic problems in Africa’s prisons. Yet African states have remained remarkably reluctant to engage in prison reform, despite the fact that poorly managed prisons pose a significant threat to general public health care.