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LOTTER, Casper. A plea for the criminalisation of stigma against ex-offenders in South Africa. Koers (Online) [online]. 2020, vol.85, n.1, pp.1-16. ISSN 2304-8557.

Against the backdrop of Agrizzi's testimony of large-scale corruption in the Department of Correctional Services (the Bosasa scandal) and the new Minister's initiative in assisting ex-offenders with job opportunities and resettlement, the question is asked whether or not the paralysing impact of post-release stigma is justified. From a comparative perspective, my point of departure is that imprisonment as South Africa's dominant sentencing regime has not impacted our unsustainable rates of recidivism and may in fact have made the situation worse. A post-Marxist theoretical perspective questions and problematises the stigma which haunts ex-offenders in stigmatising shaming cultures (such as in South Africa and the US). After examining and rejecting as irrational, the justifications for stigma - since these either apply to the stereotype or are backed by unexamined prejudice - the largely discredited idea of individual responsibility is taken to task. The multi-level complexity of crime is considered, and criminogenic structural oppressions (racism, poverty, sexism, stigma against ex-offenders, growing inequality) are highlighted. It is submitted that stigma qualifies both as hate speech ana as being unconstitutional in South Africa. A number of interventions are proposed (such as the criminalisation of stigma against ex-offenders) which are aimed at the promotion of an integrative shaming culture and in a deeply reflective conclusion, the hypocrisy in the wider community is lamented.

Keywords : post-release stigma; unexamined prejudice; multi-level complexity of crime; socia hypocrisy; proposed post-Marxist inspired interventions.

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