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Tydskrif vir Geesteswetenskappe

On-line version ISSN 2224-7912
Print version ISSN 0041-4751

Abstract

LOTTER, Casper. A Chinese road map to offender re-entry: A case study. Tydskr. geesteswet. [online]. 2021, vol.61, n.2, pp.490-506. ISSN 2224-7912.  http://dx.doi.org/10.17159/2224-7912/2021/v61n2a6.

This contribution is a cross-cultural exercise, within a philosophical, inter-disciplinary perspective, where the work of Derrida and Lacan on transplanting the signifier from its original context and re-inscribing it onto foreign soil, is used to bolster the case for inducting selected, penological and resettlement practices from a foreign culture (the Peoples' Republic of China [the PRC]) into a South African context. As no transplantation's success is guaranteed, Chris Allsobrook's "African Recognition Theory" as well as Tom Zwart's "receptor" approach is employed to tilt the odds in favour of a successful African inscription. Allsobrook's African Recognition Theory is considered as a way of understanding how the concept of "cultural mixing" can be employed to allow for a home-grown remedy to take shape while Zwart's "receptor" approach is explored against the background of its successful use to ameliorate the social problems in Africa. It is argued that mass imprisonment, following the American model, is more likely than not the result of schemes-for-profit (both in South Africa and the US) than a genuine concern over crime and re-offending rates. The so-called prison-industrial complex thrives on the back of imprisonment as our dominant sentencing regime and the latter has clearly not delivered what it had promised, namely safer communities and sustainable re-offending rates. It is contended that with South Africa having one of the highest incarceration rates in Africa and certainly one of the highest rates of recidivism in the world, a larger portion of the Department of Correctional Services' (DCS) budget than a mere 12% should go towards rehabilitation and, especially, resettlement efforts. In view of the demonstrable neglect of rehabilitation and the dismal failure of resettlement efforts in Western jurisdictions (including South Africa), data on selected rehabilitation and resettlement practices in the PRC is collected and coded to present a road map for offender re-entry. The themes selected range from resettlement to incarceration (in that inverted order). The data is collected by way of secondary data analysis and coding using a thematic imprint. This exercise is performed against the background of Braithwaite's seminal distinction between stigmatising shaming (of which South Africa and the United States are examples) and integrative shaming (of which China and Japan are examples) cultures. The argument is that features of the latter will greatly aid resettlement efforts and the struggle against unsustainable recidivism rates in South Africa. The concept of ubuntu, a well-established integrative shaming feature in Southern African indigenous cultures, is highlighted as a feature that could greatly assist the transplantation process. Indeed, an investigation of the now-defunct flower of an integrative shaming culture (1949-1996), has much to offer SA's harsh stigmatising shaming climate. By adopting an abductive research approach wedded to a "cultural mixing" method, it is possible to intersperse the data from the PRC with observations on how these could complement existing rehabilitative trends in South African corrections. The discussion of the data gleaned from the Chinese theater is interspersed with material from both Western and local sources on how the transplantation from China to South Africa could best be accomplished. It is contended that, taking an analogy from Stiglitz, the prison has no "moral compass" and should be managed to produce the desired outcomes in terms of both rehabilitation and sustainable resettlement, as the Chinese experience has demonstrated. In view of crime's complex nature, an inter-disciplinary approach is adopted and the hope is expressed that this novel use of an old theory in a new way and context would add insight to our understanding of crime. It is to be hoped that in light of South Africa's (newish) Minister of Justice and Correctional Services, Ronald Lamola's, acknowledgement of corrections' tendency to warehouse managing of offenders and his undertaking to add renewed impetus to the department's rehabilitation and resettlement efforts, that this contribution could add value to his pledge.

Keywords : cross-cultural transplantation; selected penological and resettlement practices; South African perspective; secondary data analysis; road map; offender re-entry; Braithwaite's seminal distinction; stigmatising shaming cultures; integrative shaming cultures.

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