"Conquering fear, commanding hope": The DA's Criminal Justice Plan
12 August 2008HELEN ZILLE
LEADER OF THE DEMOCRATIC ALLIANCE
An Open Opportunity Society for All cannot exist until law-abiding citizens feel safe. Yet South Africa is trapped in a web of terror caused by crime. Many lives have been lost. Many of us have been deeply traumatised. We have become suspicious of our fellow citizens and mistrusting of the institutions that are supposed to keep us safe.
With a detailed five-step plan targeting the entire criminal justice system, a DA plan to tackle crime will make our streets and homes safe again.
Firstly, we must as far as possible stop crime before it happens. The more competent and trained police officers we have on the streets, the better we will be able to prevent crime. The DA will increase the number of SAPS officers to 250 000 - in contrast to the government's target of 190 000 - and employ a further 30 000 detectives.
The DA will employ police officers purely on the basis of competence, not quotas, and we will stop top-level political appointments. Conviction on a charge of corruption or fraud will result in instant dismissal and we will empower the Independent Complaints Directorate to come down hard on errant officers. A police training academy will identify police officers who show leadership potential and provide them with the training they need to fast-track their careers.
Specific steps will be taken to identify likely criminals before they act. International trends show that 10% of criminals are responsible for 50% of crimes. This 10% in every community must be identified and closely tracked, and communities protected from them. Diversion programmes for youth at risk will prevent the growth of a new breed of criminals.
Crime prevention also requires dealing decisively with drug abuse. The DA will reinstate the Narcotics Bureau, tighten up border security, and devote more funds to rehabilitation to keep our children safe from drug barons.
Secondly, we will use the latest technology to dramatically improve our response to crime. The DA will make out-of-date technology and management information a thing of the past. A Crime Information Management System - based on the integrated GIS system used in New York - will be harnessed to allow both the public and the police to access real-time information about crime trends, track cases, monitor people on bail and parole, and scrutinise the performance of individual police stations - all from a central database.
The DA will reduce backlogs at forensic science laboratories, implement staff retention strategies and set higher standards of training so that police investigations will no longer be undermined by poor processing of evidence.
Specialised units have previously been hugely successful in combating specific crimes. Almost all have been closed down. They must be reinstated so that the war on child abuse, narcotics and vehicle theft, among others, can be strengthened. We will also implement clear plans to respond to particular problems such as rural safety, organised crime, domestic and sexual violence, violence in schools and metal theft.
Crime hotspots will be saturated with police, and these officers will be given additional resources and training.
Thirdly, those charged with crimes must be prosecuted speedily. In addition to improving conditions at courts, the DA will bring in private sector skills to speed up processes and extend court hours so that some run 24-hours a day. Among other measures, the DA will work to have a period spent in the court system made a requirement to be registered as a lawyer, and at least 500 additional permanent prosecutors will be employed.
There will be no bail for repeat offenders for certain serious crimes, including murder, rape and drug dealing; those who commit other serious crimes will have to show cause as to why they should be granted bail.
Those who are convicted must serve the time they deserve. For those serving life sentences, life will mean life, with no parole. We will also ensure that exacerbating factors - such as the use of a gun in the crime or having been under the influence of drugs or alcohol at the time - are reflected in longer sentences, and that minimum sentences apply for crimes such as murder. No prisoner will qualify for parole unless he or she is drug free, and has been so for at least six months.
Fourthly, prisons must become more effective. Prisons have become 'universities of crime' where little or no constructive activity is expected from prisoners. First-time, minor offenders must be diverted into community service or reform schools rather than prisons.
But we must also dramatically increase prisoners' involvement in productive labour and community upliftment. This will not only give prisoners skills they can use outside prison, but will also allow them to partly atone for their crimes and cover the costs of their detention. The DA will ensure that all able-bodied prisoners work, and that income earned from this work goes towards both the costs of running prisons and to a Victims of Crime Fund. We will build more prisons using partnerships with the private sector.
Income-generating and self-supporting halfway houses will be created in every district to give prisoners access to help so that they can get their lives together again on release.
Finally, any compassionate society provides assistance to victims of crime in recovering from the trauma they have undergone. Yet in our criminal justice system, the victims are marginalised and neglected. The final important step in the DA's crime plan is to ensure that the rights of those who have suffered at the hands of criminals are put at the heart of the criminal justice system.
The DA will create a statutory body called the Directorate for Victims of Crime. This body will monitor the response of officials to victims and administer a toll-free helpline for victims.
Most importantly, this directorate will manage a Victims of Crime Fund to ensure that victims have access to services and assistance. The fund would include money from various sources, including prisoners' earnings and all bail money forfeited to the state. Anyone suffering physical, emotional or financial damage as a result of a crime would be able to claim against it.
A Victims' Register will enable victims of violent and sexual offences to register on a secure and confidential database and be kept updated on any developments relating to the case of the offender, including, for example, automatic notification if bail or parole is granted.
Fourteen years after the end of apartheid, crime remains the most menacing obstruction in the path of a freer, more just and more prosperous South Africa. We do not need to accept crime as an inescapable reality. The DA's plan will create an environment in which we are free from fear, in which the rights that the Constitution affords us are respected, and in which our collective vision is no longer limited by fear.
To download the full criminal justice plan, please click here >>