HOLDING UP A MIRROR TO APARTHEID SOUTH AFRICA: PUBLIC DISCOURSE ON THE ISSUE OF OVERCROWDING IN SOUTH AFRICAN PRISONS 1980 TO 1984 – PART 2
Keywords:chronic overcrowding, apartheid system, prison overcrowding, Hoexter Commission
During the first half of the 1980s, the issue of chronic overcrowding within the South African penal system formed part of an intense ideological struggle between those who supported and those who opposed the apartheid regime. Public debate around this issue acted as a mirror, reflecting early cracks which were beginning to appear in the edifice of apartheid. Since the prisons were the ultimate instrument of social control within the apartheid system, the ongoing crises caused by chronic overcrowding within these institutions served as a kind of “canary in the mine” for the apartheid system as a whole. The debates which took place during the early 1980s around overcrowding are also important because they form part of a common theme running through South African penal discourse as a whole. This article seeks to show how the debates on prison overcrowding which took place in the first half of the 1980s fit into a long-term pattern of recurring ideological crises surrounding this issue. The article is divided into two parts. In Part One, the above themes were explored through the public discourse surrounding the Steyn Commission of Enquiry into the public media, as well as the Hoexter Commission of Enquiry into the structure and functioning of South Africa’s courts. Whereas Part One deals only with certain early debates arising out of the Hoexter Commission – up to February 1981 – Part Two takes this as a starting point and traces a number of further themes which arose in the debates surrounding the Hoexter Commission between February 1981 and April 1984, when the Commission delivered its report.
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