Diversion in South Africa: A review of policy and practice, 1990-2003

This paper reviews literature available on diversion, examining the concept, the formalisation of diversion practice through the Child Justice Bill

Since the early 1990s, the number and scope of diversion programmes for children has grown in South Africa. Children have expressed their support for these developments and see these interventions as more beneficial than punitive sentences, which rarely succeed in discouraging young people from committing crime again. A cost analysis has shown that the initial investment required for developing suitable diversion programmes will quickly be recouped by the reduction in the amount of time that children spend in custody. Yet in practice, diversion is occurring in the absence of a regulating legislative framework and has been implemented in a selective and disjointed manner. This situation will undoubtedly improve with the enactment of the Child Justice Bill (49 of 2002) drafted specifically to promote and regulate the diversion of cases away from formal court procedures. This paper reviews the literature available on diversion in South Africa, examining the concept, the formalisation of diversion practice through the Child Justice Bill, and the practice of diversion thus far in South Africa.

About the author

Catherine Wood is a clinical psychologist currently working in the United Kingdom. This monograph was written while she was a joint appointment employee at Valkenberg Hospital and the Department of Psychiatry and Mental Health, University of Cape Town. She was previously employed by the Institute of Criminology where she co-ordinated the work of the Youth Justice Project. She was a founder member of SAYStOP and was centrally involved in the development, implementation, and evaluation of the diversion programme developed by this organisation. A further key research area was monitoring and researching of policy and legislation for the development of a new child justice system.

Development partners
The Ford Foundation, USAID and the US Embassy in Pretoria.
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