Academic journal article African Studies Review

Justice Gained? Crime and Crime Control in South Africa's Transition

Academic journal article African Studies Review

Justice Gained? Crime and Crime Control in South Africa's Transition

Article excerpt

LAW & HUMAN RIGHTS Bill Dixon and Elrena van der Spuy, eds. Justice Gained? Crime and Crime Control in South Africa's Transition. Cape Town: UCT Press/Devon, UK: Willan Publishing, 2004. Distributed by International Specialized Book Services, Inc., Portland, Ore. xxxvii + 266 pp. Tables. Notes. Index. $45.00. Paper.

Societal change as drastic as that experienced by South Africa over the last decade and a half almost always requires reformation of basic political and social institutions. Even more important than changing leaders and slogans, however, is the change in the way we think about what these institutions do. Building upon the foundation of two earlier volumes (one devoted to late apartheid and the other to the early postapartheid period), Justice Gained examines the extent to which the criminal justice system, its policies and goals, as well as the concepts we use to study and describe it, are evolving in the first decade of postapartheid governance. It does so by examining the important links between such issues and politics. The contributors cover a wide variety of topics in impressive fashion, including the death penalty, gun control, domestic violence, sexual assault, and youth violence. Despite such wide coverage, each contribution displays uniformly high standards of documentation, analysis, and focus. While not all the authors espouse the same ideological or theoretical perspective, they share a concern for critically analyzing existing policies and the assumptions underlying them-sharing as well, one infers, a social rather than a purely legal approach to criminal justice policy. Not that most of the authors suggest any quick fixes to the criminal justice challenges faced by the nation; rather, they recognize the relative ascendance of forces or ideas likely to influence various policies in the near term.

South Africa has a system of criminal justice that may be unique in the world. First of all, it is constitutionally committed to a system in which the death penalty is prohibited and extensive rights for the accused and for prisoners are recognized. …

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