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Reforming the Juvenile Justice System in South Africa: Policy, Law Reform and Parallel Developments (From UNAFEI: Annual Report for 2007 and Resource Material Series No. 75, P 41-54, 2008, Grace Lord, ed. See NCJ-229038)

NCJ Number
Dr. Anne Skelton
Date Published
August 2008
14 pages
This paper reviews the history of juvenile justice reform and associated developments in South Africa.
In 1994, a new government came to power in South Africa, and President Nelson Mandela promised during his first address to Parliament that the issue of children in prison would be addressed, such that in the future the criminal justice system would be the last resort in dealing with juvenile offenders. South Africa's ratification of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child in 1995 set the stage for broad policy and legislative change. The South African Constitution contains a section that protects children's rights and includes the statement that children have the right not to be detained, except as a measure of last resort, and even then for the shortest appropriate period, separate from adults, and in conditions that take into account their age and development. Implementation of these rights, however, led to chaos in implementation, as there was inadequate consultation between the relevant government departments, as well as a lack of alternative residential facilities for children. These problems led to the creation of the Interministerial Committee on Young People at Risk (IMC). This has become a key agency for policymaking in the field of child and youth care, including the management of children who violate laws. The IMC developed a number of pilot projects guided by its new policy recommendations. Some of these projects became the foundation for the development of new ways of dealing with children. This paper presents the details of policy and practice related to probation services, assessment, diversion, restorative justice, children awaiting trial in detention, presentence reports, reform school, community-based sentences, prison sentences, legal representation, and monitoring. Legislative and policy reforms related to these issues span the period from 1997 to the present (2008). 31 references