Towards transforming a system: re-thinking incarceration for youth (and beyond)

Abstract

Rethinking crime and punishment, especially with regard to youth, is a priority for South Africa; a country with high crime rates, recidivism and an overburdened criminal justice system. The present punitive and retributive system often only exacerbates many underlying causes of crime and violence, especially in young people. The failure of the present system suggests that the time is right for a paradigm shift in society's response to crime and punishment. A challenge to implementing any alternative justice model is to ensure that it does not continue to prop up the under-resourced, overburdened and dysfunctional criminal justice system it seeks to reform.  The current systemic crisis demands radical reform, not merely adopting a few well-meaning tweaks to a broken system. This article argues that the system and its various forms (including residential options but with an emphasis on community-owned interventions) need to be both trauma-informed and infused with an ethos of restorative justice. We articulate our explanations with youth as the focus and make proposals in light of this and suggest a path towards implementation.

Author Biographies

Lisa Marqua-Harries, Restore

Lisa Marqua-Harries is Director of the NGO Restore and has her MA in Restorative Justice with the University of Hull, UK.

Grant Stewart, Restore

Grant Stewart is a youth development and trauma-informed process facilitator and trainer with Restore Reconnect Rebuild (Pty) Ltd.

Venessa Padayachee, NICRO

Venessa Padayachee is the national advocacy and lobbying manager at NICRO. She has a degree in Social Work and a MA in Criminology.

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Published
2019-06-30
Section
Commentary and analysis