South African Government

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Justice system

The National Development Plan (NDP) highlights the need for government to ensure that all people in South Africa are and feel safe. The NDP also emphasises that public confidence in the criminal justice system (CJS) is the most effective deterrent to criminality.

The Department of Justice and Constitutional Development (DoJ&CD) works closely with the Department of Correctional Services (DCS).

Until 1990, the two departments functioned as one entity. In late 1990, government announced that it planned to introduce extensive reforms in the prison system.

The Prison Service was separated from the Department of Justice and renamed as the DCS. This triggered important changes to prison legislation.

An important milestone in this period was the introduction of the concept of dealing with certain categories of offenders within the community rather than inside prison – a system known as non-custodial “correctional supervision”. This was introduced as a more cost-effective way of dealing with offenders and a response to overcrowding, as well as dealing with prisoners in a way more suited to the country’s prioritisation of human rights.

In 2014, the two departments were merged to become the Department of Justice and Correctional services on a ministerial level, yet still functioning as seperate departments in practice as well as when reporting in official capacity and in legislative terms.

In line with the NDP, government’s Medium Term Strategic Framework 2014 – 2019 places the onus on the Department of Justice and Constitutional Development (DoJ&CD) to implement practical, short and medium-term measures to address backlogs in court cases and improve the all-round performance of the courts over the medium term.

The department’s spending over the medium term will thus be focused on improving physical access to courts, including the rationalisation of magisterial districts and the alignment of the jurisdiction of magistrates’ courts, and on improving services in courts.

The department also supports the NDP’s vision of building a capable state, and to this end it will be re-engineering state legal services.

Source: South Africa Yearbook 2017/18