Proposals to help curb reoffending in South Africa’s  Prisons

Innovation and creative thinking have always been paradigms in Criminology. We know this is a welcome shift from the largely punitive mindset in the world of corrections across the world.

This is particularly important in South Africa which has, as we know, one of the highest rates of recidivism in the world – as high as 90%, according to the following research.

As it turns out, South Africa also has the highest rate of imprisonment in Africa. As a result, the Department of Correctional Services “has a tough task rehabilitating the 160 000 inmates in its care”.

Two innovative ideas have been put forth to essentially reduce the rate of prisoners reoffending. Both are explored in the research below. The interventions are firstly, the introduction of companion animals in prisons and, secondly, encouraging offenders to write reflective autobiographies during incarceration.

Those of us who work in the criminal justice system know that punitive forms of justice are ineffective, as they only seek to punish through deprivation or restriction, for example. Positive reinforcement shows that there are far more productive ways to achieve desired outcomes.

It has also been suggested that “marginalisation, stigmatisation and discrimination of offenders and ex-offenders in South Africa’s harsh shaming culture feed into very high, unsustainable rates of recidivism”. Despite the danger posed by reformist initiatives, “well-being as a reformist intervention presents an opportunity to change patterns of ex-offenders being stigmatised, and manage recidivism more effectively”.

Introducing companion animals to South African prisons and encouraging offenders to write reflective autobiographies while in prison are two great ideas that could contribute to their well-being in a cost effective way. These innovative ideas have also been utilized in other countries like China, who have among the lowest recidivism rates in the entire world, as low as 6%, according to some studies.

Full proposal can be found here: