Gentle Justice Reduces Recidivism and Incarceration: Can South Africa Benefit from the Finnish Experience?
Keywords:basic human needs, comparative criminology, conflict transformation, cross-cultural learning, Finland, stigmatising shaming culture, South Africa
This is a study of how Finland, a Western democracy which has considerably reduced its rate of recidivism, could help South Africa achieve more effective crime control, despite vested interests (such as the prison-industrial-complex, which profits from the perpetuation of crime). This contribution also considers Braithwaite’s seminal distinction between stigmatising and integrative shaming cultures and how Finland, even though it has a stigmatising shaming culture, has achieved a recidivism rate of around 31% (with deincarceration at 53/100 000). This is much better than South Africa’s unacceptably high 86–94% (259/100 000). By using a conflict transformation theoretical lens, it is argued that this great accomplishment in Finland manifests as a result of a meaningful acknowledgement of offenders’ and ex-offenders’ basic human needs, thereby removing this primary source of human conflict. In conclusion, Finland’s criminal justice system is a good blueprint that South Africa’s Department of Correctional Services should seriously consider emulating.
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