Original Research

Penal reform in Africa: The case of prison chaplaincy

Abraham K. Akih, Yolanda Dreyer
HTS Teologiese Studies / Theological Studies | Vol 73, No 3 | a4525 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.4102/hts.v73i3.4525 | © 2017 Abraham K. Akih, Yolanda Dreyer | This work is licensed under CC Attribution 4.0
Submitted: 13 February 2017 | Published: 31 August 2017

About the author(s)

Abraham K. Akih, Department Practical Theology, Faculty of Theology, University of Pretoria, South Africa
Yolanda Dreyer, Department Practical Theology, Faculty of Theology, University of Pretoria, South Africa


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Abstract

Penal reform is a challenge across the world. In Africa, those who are incarcerated are especially vulnerable and often deprived of basic human rights. Prison conditions are generally dire, resources are limited, and at times undue force is used to control inmates. The public attitude towards offenders is also not encouraging. Reform efforts include finding alternative ways of sentencing such as community service, making use of halfway houses and reducing sentences. These efforts have not yet yielded the desired results. The four principles of retribution, deterrence, incapacitation and rehabilitation guide penal practice in Africa. Retribution and rehabilitation stand in tension. Deterrence and incapacitation aim at forcing inmates to conform to the social order. The article argues that prison chaplaincy can make a valuable contribution to restoring the dignity and humanity of those who are incarcerated. Chaplaincy can contribute to improving attitudes and practices in the penal system and society. In addition to the social objective of rehabilitation, prison ministry can, on a spiritual level, also facilitate repentance, forgiveness and reconciliation. The aim is the holistic restoration of human beings.

Keywords

penal reform; prison conditions; prison chaplaincy; prison ministry; community service; rehabilitation; reconciliation

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