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Children of the Abyss: Permutations of Childhood in South Africa’s Child Justice Act

James Maguire

Harvard Law School (alum)

February 8, 2012

New Criminal Law Review, Vol. 15, No. 1, 2012

This article critically examines recent legislation in South Africa intended to systematically overhaul the country’s juvenile justice regime. Developed and heatedly debated over the course of a decade, the Child Justice Act implements novel procedural protections and large-scale restorative justice programs. By analyzing the political history, social context, and evolving text of the Child Justice Act, I call into question prevailing assumptions about post-apartheid South Africa’s socio-legal history. Close examination of the act’s major drafts (in 2002, 2007, and 2008) reveals a set of tensions in the political and rhetorical status of youths as alternately victims of circumstance and threats to society. Rather than confronting and resolving this tension, which subverts the linear logic of post-apartheid “transition”, the act reinscribes that tension in a new vocabulary and logic of governance and social management. Contemporary South African history thus demonstrates a pattern not of transition but of problematic permutations.

Number of Pages in PDF File: 54

Keywords: South Africa, juvenile justice, restorative justice, diversion, transition, post-apartheid, crime control, governmentality

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Date posted: May 13, 2011 ; Last revised: May 1, 2015

Suggested Citation

Maguire, James, Children of the Abyss: Permutations of Childhood in South Africa’s Child Justice Act (February 8, 2012). New Criminal Law Review, Vol. 15, No. 1, 2012. Available at SSRN: http://ssrn.com/abstract=1839823

Contact Information

James Maguire (Contact Author)
Harvard Law School (alum) ( email )
5163 Massachusetts Ave
Cambridge, MA 02138
United States
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