College of Law

Modern trends in prison systems

On 19 November 2020, the Department of Corrections Management in the College of Law (CLAW) hosted a webinar on modern trends in corrections. It provided the attendees with an opportunity to enhance their knowledge on this topical issue because it addressed a variety of relevant themes.

As Nelson Mandela, a former president of South Africa, said: "I found solitary confinement the most forbidding aspect of prison life. There is no end and no beginning; there is only one’s mind, which can begin to play tricks. Was that a dream or did it really happen? One begins to question everything."

Historically the department hosted in-person colloquia throughout the year, but attendance was often limited due to geographical boundaries and cost of travel. Covid-19 has, however, proved how the global village can meet, exchange ideas and bring down hard borders through the use of technology. The Department of Corrections Management is therefore extremely proud that it was able to present its first webinar despite this global pandemic.


The following distinguished speakers presented papers:

Prof Dirk van Zyl-Smit from the University of Nottingham in the UK presented an enlightening paper on international standards and national policies on prison reform. It was especially interesting to find out how prison policy in South Africa can be understood in a wider context. The discussion on solitary confinement was intriguing.

The paper of Dr Sibusiswe Bengu from the national Department of Correctional Services was very insightful, especially the fact that it was about national crime statistics, a very topical focus in the media presently in South Africa.

Prof Kimberly Kras from the San Diego University in the USA presented a paper on the humanising of individuals who are incarcerated that resonated with the audience. She discussed some of the nuanced challenges to individual rehabilitation and reform in the US prison system, and presented current and possible solutions based on research studies and recent policy reforms.

The paper on the Nelson Mandela Rules[FS1]  by Dr Stefan Schulz from the Namibia University of Science and Technology was both interesting and captivating. The role that these rules play in the treatment of prisoners can never be underestimated.

Dr Paul Bello, a research fellow in the Department of Corrections Management, presented on the exploration of the determinants of compliance behaviour among incarcerated offenders in selected South African correctional centres, which was very informative.

A staff member in the Department of Corrections Management, Dr Lincoln Fitz, presented a very educational paper about the use of force in correctional centres and the oversight framework to determine whether the force was justifiable. This topic is so pertinent, especially within this post-hard-lockdown period, during which there has been a huge public outcry against violence from law enforcement.

The number of attendees surpassed expectations. The Department of Corrections first-ever webinar was a success and opened the door for many more to come.

* By Ngwako Mokgotho, Communication and Marketing Specialist, College of Law

Teaser image sourced from the Department of Correctional Services.

Publish date: 2020-12-08 00:00:00.0