Our Policies/The Safe Society/
Criminal Justice Policy
At a glance
CONQUERING FEAR COMMANDING HOPE: The DA’s Criminal Justice Plan
Documents to Download
- CONQUERING FEAR II.pdf (178 kb)
Personal safety is a prerequisite for an Open Opportunity Society for All. 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 distrusting of the institutions that are supposed to keep us safe.
We do not need to accept crime as an inescapable reality. The DA would deliver a police force, a justice system and a correctional services system that are able to transform our society into one in which personal safety is the essence of everyday life.
Step 1: Preventing Crime Before it Occurs
The more trained police officers on the streets, the better we would be able to bring criminals to justice. The DA would increase the number of SAPS members to 250 000 – in contrast to the government’s target of 190 000.
This must go hand in hand with steps to improve these officers’ performance. The DA would ensure that all police officers possess the right basic skills and pass regular fitness tests. We would employ police officers on the basis of merit, not quotas, and we would stop all top-level political appointments. Conviction on a charge of corruption would result in instant dismissal and we would empower the Independent Complaints Directorate to stamp down hard on errant officers.
Every community is different in terms of crime threats. Yet the highly centralised structure of the SAPS undermines the ability of police officers to respond to the specific needs of their community. Within a basic regulatory framework, the DA would give police stations the autonomy they need to develop localized responses to crime problems.
Specific steps would be taken to identify likely criminals before they are irretrievably corrupted by prison. Therefore diversion programmes – along the lines of the DA’s Chrysalis Academy in the Western Cape – must provide alternatives to young South Africans at risk of falling into a life of crime.
The DA would ensure that information on crime is shared widely and that local safety initiatives are encouraged. We would also let the private security sector and the SAPS to work together to strengthen the fight against crime.
Information technology would become a key part of the DA’s war on crime. Information systems would allow both the public and the SAPS to access real-time information about crime trends, to track cases and to keep information secure – case dockets going “missing” will become a thing of the past.
Finally, crime prevention requires dealing decisively with the problem of drug and alcohol abuse. Among other things, the DA would reinstate the Narcotics Bureau, tighten up border security, and devote more funds to rehabilitation.
Step 2: Detecting and Responding to Crime When it Does Occur
Successful crime control depends critically on being able to collate, analyse and distribute information. The DA would create a Crime Information Management System that would give the SAPS and the public access to crime statistics on the internet as crimes are reported. It would allow information to be analysed, trends identified, and detailed statistics produced. Weekly reports generated by this system would be used by the SAPS to develop specific responses to specific problems, and members of the public would be able to generate their own category-specific reports.
To improve the reliability of our crime statistics, the DA would conduct a comprehensive annual victim impact study to indicate the extent to which crime reporting in particular categories matches actual incidents.
Investigations are frequently undermined by the inability of our forensic science laboratories to process evidence. The DA would focus on reducing backlogs at these labs, implementing staff retention strategies and setting higher standards of training.
Our detectives are overworked, under-paid and under-trained. The DA would employ an additional 30 000 detectives to improve criminal investigations. We would also create mechanisms to allow for lateral entry into the detective service from the private sector.
Specialised units to deal with specific types of crime must be reinstated. The government’s view that ordinary police officers can cope with the level of sophistication involved in crimes such as hi-jacking and the narcotics trade has proved to be fallacious.
We would also introduce specific measures to deal with the critical problems of rural safety, organised crime, domestic and sexual violence, violence in schools and metal theft.
Step 3: Successfully Prosecuting and Convicting Criminals
Our criminal justice system must be able to guarantee that those charged with crimes are prosecuted speedily and given appropriate sentences – something it cannot do now.
In addition to a range of measures to improve conditions at courts, the DA would bring in private sector skills to speed up the process. Legal practitioners would be given tax incentives and other encouragement to spend a few hours a month in the public court system, and the DA would work to have a period spent in the court system a requirement to be registered as a lawyer.
To ensure that criminals serve the time they deserve, the DA would:
Ensure that “life means life” and there is no parole for life sentences.
Require that exacerbating factors, such as the use of a gun or being under the influence of drugs, are reflected in longer sentences, and apply minimum sentences for some crimes, such as murder;
Require prisoners to be drug free to qualify for parole.
Step 4: Interring and Rehabilitating those Convicted
Prisons have become ‘universities of crime’ because few constructive activities are provided for prisoners. This problem must be solved partly by keeping first-time, minor offenders out of prison as much as possible, and rather diverting them into community service or reform schools – and using electronic tracking programmes to keep track of them.
In addition, we need to dramatically increase prisoners’ involvement in productive labour and community upliftment programmes, both to equip them with skills they can use outside prison and to allow them to partly atone for their crimes. The DA would ensure that all able-bodied prisoners work, and that income earned from this work goes towards the upkeep of the criminal and to a Victims of Crime Fund.
Income-generating and self-supporting halfway houses would be created in every district to give prisoners access to help to get their lives together again on release.
Step 5: Compensation and Relief for Victims of Crime
Any compassionate society provides victims of crime with support in recovering from the trauma they have undergone. Yet the attention of our criminal justice system is focused almost entirely on the criminal rather than the victim. Victims of crime are marginalised and neglected.
In an Open Opportunity Society for All, victims’ rights are at the heart of the criminal justice system. The DA would create a statutory body called the Directorate for Victims of Crime. This body would monitor the response of officials to victims, administer a toll-free helpline for victims and run a national victim support training centre.
Most importantly, it would administer 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 anyone suffering physical, emotional or financial damage as a result of a crime would be able to claim against it.
In addition, a Victims’ Register would 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 notification if bail or parole is granted.