The article below does not reflect the views and opinions of STADIO Higher Education.
Overimprisonment, minimum sentences and increased incarceration are not the solutions to the high crime rate in South Africa. The solution is the certainty of consequence, which means an effective prosecution system.
That’s the view of former constitutional court judge Edwin Cameron, who was recently appointed as head of the Correctional Services Prison Inspectorate Committee. Judge Cameron was the speaker at an online industry seminar hosted by the STADIO School of Law recently.
“How do you decrease crime? The certainty of detection, arraignment, and prosecution. That’s how! It’s the certainty of consequence that makes a difference, not minimum sentences and not incarceration for senseless reasons.
“We also need to scrap all criminal provisions on drugs. Drugs are like alcohol. You need to warn about the consequences and the addictiveness, but you don’t criminalise it. In short, you regulate it.
“Criminal laws against drugs must be replaced by drug control programmes, regulation and treatment. This will immediately decrease organised and gang related crime, which is fueled by the continued criminalisation of drugs,” he says.
According to Cameron the de-criminalisation of drugs has led to the decrease in drug use and related crimes in a vast number of countries in Europe, without exception.
“In South Africa we are trying to stop ourselves from drowning in crime, but we’re not learning to swim. Our prosecution system is failing us.”
Cameron slated former President Jacob Zuma who, he says, “sapped our national prosecuting authority. Zuma deliberately weakened crime intelligence. We must reinstate crime intelligence and fix the prosecuting authority.”
“It was brought to its knees by Zuma and lost its capacity to prosecute. Advocate Shamila Batohi has been doing her best to fix it over the past two years and the prosecution authority will hopefully be restored.
“Individuals such as Marius Jooste, Koko Matshela and Bryan Molefe need to be brought to book and be subjected to the due process of law.”
Conditions in our prisons formed a large part of Cameron’s presentation. “We have terrible overincarceration in South Africa. Tens of thousands of black men are in prison, and they shouldn’t be.
“So many women are in prison for senseless drug related crimes, many of them are first time offenders.
“We must be tough in a wise way. We CAN avoid the inhumane, overcrowded conditions of detention.
“Our most famous prisoner, former president Nelson Mandela, wanted a humane prison system. Our Bill of Rights includes prison conditions aligned with human dignity. We have failed on this promise.
“There are monsters out there, and they need to be locked up forever, but we have to find out who they are first, and then act.”
“It costs us R10 000 per month to look after a prisoner. That’s R300 per day. It’s money wasted. I reiterate that length of sentence has no efficacy in inhibiting crime. It’s an astounding statement, but we know it now.
“In the year we abolished Apartheid, we had 400 persons serving life sentences. We now have 18 000. The money that we use to look after all these prisoners will be better spent through proper and effective policing and prosecution.
Cameron also suggests releasing non-violent trial awaiting suspects. “Many of them are granted bail, but they can’t afford the amount of their bail. We need to release these ‘prisoners of poverty’, or even start a bail fund.
“We also need to unclog the blockages in parole system. If we sharpen up our parole system, it will make the world of difference to overcrowding in our prisons,” he concluded.