Alternative sentencing in South Africa: an update
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With South Africa’s ever growing prison population, the hope is often expressed that non-custodial sentencing options or ‘alternative sentencing’ will relieve the overcrowding and its associated ills. The current situation in our prisons is, however, not the result of a lack of creative alternative sentencing options – indeed, these have been on the statute books for decades. Instead, prison overcrowding is caused by the slow administration of justice, resulting in a large awaiting trial population. Another factor is the propensity of South African courts to hand down long prison and prison-based sentences. The introduction in 1997 of legislation prescribing minimum mandatory sentences has also led to an increase in the sentenced prison population. On average 62% of convicted offenders receive a sentence that is in some way connected to imprisonment or direct imprisonment.