chapter  6
26 Pages

Punishment and the Body

In 1992 the ANC stated that ‘our crime problems are NOT being solved by largescale imprisonment’ and that ‘however much one condemns those deeds’ the state response should show compassion for the perpetrator (ANC 1992b: 7, emphasis in the original). Yet despite its support of people’s justice, its pro-poor stance, explicit pronouncements on the degrading nature of imprisonment (Sachs 1982: 14) and the latter’s inability to solve South Africa’s crime problems (ANC 1992b: 14),2 once it became the ruling party the ANC did not adopt a programme of progressive penal reform. Instead, and notwithstanding the prison’s strong associations with the punitive apartheid regime, long-term imprisonment has actually increased under an ANC government. Thus, between 1996 and 2003 the incarceration rate in South Africa rose from 280 to 402 per 100,000. Between 2001 and 2003, the number of people serving sentences of 10 years or more grew by almost 35 per cent (Gordon 2006: 259). By 2000, sentences of 7 to 10 years, 10 to 15 years, 15 to 20 years and 20 years to life had increased by 50 per cent, 67 per cent, 70 per cent and 124 per cent respectively. The longest sentences were, in other words, increasing the most (South African Law Commission 2000).