Judging the Holy Cow: Examining the Role of Implicit Bias in Judicial Rulings – An Analysis of the Decision in Mbena v Minister of Justice and Correctional Services 2015 4 All SA 361 (ECP)

Authors

DOI:

https://doi.org/10.17159/1727-3781/2022/v25ia12743

Keywords:

Mbena, Chetty J, Explicit bias, implicit bias, valuable window, eliminate unjustified biases, offenders' constitutional rights, restrictive reading to ensure safeguarding, recommendations public policy formulation, judicial rulings, stigmatising shaming culture, harmful social biases, illuminating and eliminating, ex-offenders, plausible reading, ecommendations for improved public policy formulation

Abstract

This contribution is an investigation into the role of implicit (as opposed to explicit) biases in judicial rulings by examining the judgment of Chetty J in Mbena v Minister of Justice and Correctional Services 2015 4 All SA 361 (ECP). Implicit bias refers to prejudice on a visceral level, namely unconscious bias, of which the bearer, to wit the judicial officer, is unaware. I suggest that exploring implicit bias in judicial rulings in the context of South Africa's harsh stigmatising shaming culture driven by incarceration as its dominant sentencing regime, will introduce a valuable window in identifying, as well as possibly illuminating and eliminating, unjustified and harmful biases. In this contribution I specifically focus on the generalised bias against ex-offenders in South Africa's harsh stigmatising shaming culture (which I distinguish from integrative shaming cultures found in Japan, China and many African societies) which attitude perpetuates the marginalisation, stigmatisation and discrimination of offenders which exceed their court-sanctioned punishment. I attempt to outline the reasons as to why the isolation and elimination of social biases of this nature are important since, in the view of many criminologists but particularly John Braithwaite, stigma is counter-productive and criminogenic as it leads to enhanced recidivism rates. To this end, I analyse the salient features of the case within a broad social context (including a consideration of phenomena such as the prison-industrial complex on South African soil) which exceeds a narrow legal framework. My roadmap for the paper encompasses a consideration of the salient, albeit disputed, facts of the case with a view towards an alternative, if plausible reading based on the probabilities of the two sets of conflicting facts presented by the opposing parties. I highlight the significance of the judgment before recommendations for improved public policy formulation are proffered.

Downloads

Download data is not yet available.

Metrics

Metrics Loading ...

Author Biography

Casper Lӧtter , North-West University

Post-doctoral research fellow in the School of Philosophy North-West University, Potchefstroom Campus, South Africa

References

Bibliography

Literature

Alexander M The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colourblindness (New Press New York 2012)

Bizos G Odyssey to Freedom (Struik Pretoria 2009)

Braithwaite J Crime, Shame and Reintegration (Cambridge University Press Cambridge 1989)

Braithwaite J "Inequality and Republican Criminology" in Hagan J and Peterson RD (eds) Crime and Inequality (Stanford University Press Stanford 1995) 277-305

Burton JW "Conflict Prevention as a Political System" 2001 International Journal of Peace Studies 23-32

Chaskalson M and Kentridge S Constitutional Law of South Africa (Juta Cape Town 2013)

Christie N Crime Control as Industry: Towards Gulags, Western Style 4th ed (Routledge London 2017)

Corder H Judges at Work: The Role and Attitudes of the South African Appellate Judiciary, 1910-1950 (Juta Cape Town 1984)

Cronje M A Comparative Analysis of Recidivism with Specific Reference to Crimino-Victimogenic Variables, Offence Analysis and Programme Participation (PhD-thesis University of KwaZulu-Natal 2017)

Davis A and Dent G "Prison as a Border: A Conversation on Gender, Globalization, and Punishment" 2001 Signs 1235-1241

De Haan W "Abolitionism and Crime Control: A Contradiction in Terms" in Stenson K and Cowell D (eds) The Politics of Crime Control (Sage London 1991) 203-217

Dostoyevsky F Notes from a Dead House [1862] Pevear R and Vokolhonsky L [trans] (Vintage Classics New York 2016)

Duckworth A Grit: The Power of Passion and Perseverance (Scribner New York 2017)

Fuller P, Murphy M and Chow A The Leader's Guide to Unconscious Bias: How to Reframe Bias, Cultivate Connection, and Create High-Performing Teams (Simon & Schuster New York 2020)

Gadamer HG Truth and Method [1960] Glen-Doepe W [trans] (Seabury Press New York 1975)

Galtung J "Violence, Peace, and Peace Research" 1969 Journal of Peace Research 167-191

Galtung J "Cultural Violence" 1990 Journal of Peace Research 291-305

Galtung J Peace by Peaceful Means: Peace and Conflict, Development and Civilization (Sage London 1996)

Geiger B "The Case for Treating Ex-Offenders as a Suspect Class" 2006 CLR 1191-1242

Goffman E Stigma: Notes on the Management of Spoilt Identity (Penguin London 1990)

Harris B "Xenophobia: A New Pathology for a New South Africa?" in Hook D and Eagle G (eds) Psychopathology and Social Prejudice (University of Cape Town Press Cape Town 2002) 169-184

Heard C "Commentary: Assessing the Global Impact of the Covid-19 Pandemic on Prison Populations" 2020 Victims and Offenders 848-861

Howerton A et al "The Consolations of Going Back to Prison: What 'Revolving Door' Prisoners Think of their Prospects" 2009 Journal of Offender Rehabilitation 439-461

Irwin J The Warehouse Prison: Disposal of the New Dangerous Class (Roxbury Los Angeles 2005)

Irwin J and Owen B "Harm and the Contemporary Prison" in Liebling A and Maruna S (eds) The Effects of Imprisonment (Willan Cullompton 2005) 94-117

Johnson RW How Long Will South Africa Survive? The Looming Crisis (Jonathan Ball Johannesburg 2015)

Johnson RW How Long Will South Africa Survive? The Crisis Continues 2nd ed (Jonathan Ball Johannesburg 2017)

Jones-Young NC and Powell GN "Hiring Ex-Offenders: A Theoretical Model" 2015 Human Resource Management Review 298-312

King RD "The Effects of Supermax Custody" in Liebling A and Maruna S (eds) The Effects of Imprisonment (Willan Cullompton 2005) 118-145

Lötter C The Reintegration of Ex-offenders in South Africa Based on the Contemporary Chinese Model: An Interdisciplinary Study (PhD-thesis University of the Free State 2018)

Lötter C "Vrygelate Gevangenes word as Gevangenispersoneel Aangestel: Kan Suid-Afrika Leer by Hierdie Nuwe Internasionale Tendens? [Ex-Offenders Should be Appointed as Prison Wardens: Can South Africa Learn from this New International Trend?]" 2019 TGW 493-511

Lötter C "'n Pleidooi vir die Kriminalisering van Stigma teen Vrygelate Gevangenes in Suid-Afrika [A Plea for the Criminalization of Stigma Against Ex-Offenders in South Africa]" 2020 KOERS: Journal for Christian Scholarship 1-16

Lötter C "The Tenuous Link Between Crime and Incarceration: Bosasa's Public-Private Partnership" 2020 Phronimon 1-21

Lötter C "Critical Theory and Praxis in Postapartheid South Africa: The Case for a Critical Criminology" 2020 Acta Academica 106-130

Mandela N Long Walk to Freedom: The Autobiography of Nelson Mandela (Little Brown & Co New York 1995)

Marqua-Harries L, Stewart G and Padayachee V "Towards Transforming a System: Re-Thinking Incarceration for Youth (and Beyond)" 2019 SA Crime Quarterly 33-40

Mboti N "Apartheid Studies and Spectral Carcerality" Unpublished paper delivered at the Centre for Social Change Global Prison Conference (16-18 November 2018 Johannesburg)

Murhula PBB and Singh SB "A Critical Analysis on Offenders Rehabilitation Approach in South Africa: A Review of the Literature" 2019 African Journal of Criminology and Justice Studies 21-43

Nagel M "'I Write What I Like': African Prison Intellectuals and the Struggle for Freedom" 2008 Journal of Pan African Studies 68-80

Steinberg J The Number (Jonathan Ball Johannesburg 2005)

Uggen C, Manza J and Behrens A "'Less than the Average Citizen': Stigma, Role Transition and the Civic Reintegration of Convicted Felons" in Maruna S and Immarigeon R (eds) After Crime and Punishment: Pathways to Offender Reintegration (Willan Cullompton 2004) 261-293

Van Niekerk B "The Death Penalty in South Africa: Some Psychiatric and Psychological Elements" 1977 The Bulletin 276-286

Weiler JHH "Epilogue: Judging the Judges – Apology and Critique" in Adams M et al (eds) Judging Europe's Judges: The Legitimacy of the Case Law of the European Court of Justice (Hart Portland 2013) 235-253

Case law

AllPay Consolidated Investment Holdings (Pty) Ltd v Chief Executive Officer, South African Social Security Agency 2014 1 SA 604 (CC)

Goldberg v Minister of Prisons 1979 1 SA 12 (A)

John v Rees [1970] Ch 345; [1969] 2 All ER 274 (CH)

Mbena v Minister of Justice and Correctional Services 2015 4 All SA 361 (ECP)

Minister of Justice and Correctional Services v Walus 2017 4 All SA 1 (SCA)

S v Dodo 2001 1 SACR 594 (CC)

Legislation

Constitution of the Republic of South Africa, 1996

Correctional Services Act 111 of 1998

Promotion of Equality and Prevention of Unfair Discrimination Act 4 of 2000

Internet sources

Alexander M 2020 The Injustice of This Moment is Not an ‘Aberration’ https://www.nytimes.com/2020/01/17/opinion/sunday/michelle-alexander-new-jim-crow.html accessed 4 February 4 2020

Ayer D 2021 The Supreme Court Has Gone Off the Rails https://www.nytimes.com/2021/10/04/opinion/supreme-court-conservatives.html?algo=clicks_decay_96&block=5&campaign_id=142&emc=edit_fory_20211005&fellback=false&imp_id=100967217

&instance_id=4 accessed 12 October 2021

Bouie J 2021 The Supreme Court Needs to Be Cut Down to Size https://www.nytimes.com/2021/07/23/opinion/supreme-court-commission-court-packing.html?action=click&module=RelatedLinks&pgtype=Article accessed 12 October 2021

Chammah M and Neff J 2018 When Your Prison Becomes Your Paycheck https://www.themarshallproject.org/2018/01/16/when-your-prison-becomes-your-paycheck accessed 23 May 2022

Cherry K 2020 How Does Implicit Bias Influence Behavior? Explanations and Impacts of Unconscious Bias https://www.verywellmind.com/implicit-bias-overview-4178401 accessed 11 October 2021

De Haas M 2021 Cele Calling the Shots is Dangerous for the Country https://www.msn.com/en-za/news/editorpicks/cele-calling-the-shots-is-dangerous-for-the-country/ar-AAPCrkq?ocid=msedgntp accessed 17 October 2021

Gerber J 2021 ANC Voters Associate the Party with Corruption, but Still Trust It - Media24 Poll https://www.news24.com/news24/

southafrica/news/anc-voters-associate-the-party-with-corruption-but-still-trust-it-media24-poll-finds-20211025 accessed 1 November 2021

Greenhouse L 2021 God Has No Place in Supreme Court Opinions https://www.nytimes.com/2021/09/09/opinion/abortion-supreme-court-religion.html?action=click&module=RelatedLinks&pgtype=Article accessed 12 October 2021

Institute for Economics and Peace 2018 Global Peace Index https://www.economicsandpeace.org/report/global-peace-index-2018-report/ accessed 23 May 2022

Kriegler A 2018 South Africa Won’t Become Less Violent Until It’s More Equal https://theconversation.com/south-africa-wont-become-less-violentuntilits-more-equal-103116 accessed 23 May 2022

Marietta M 2021 US Supreme Court Gets Set to Address Abortion, Guns and Religion https://theconversation.com/us-supreme-court-gets-set-to-address-abortion-guns-and-religion-168720 accessed 15 October 2021

Mirk S 2016 Audre Lorde Thought of Self-Care as an "Act of Political Warfare" https://www.bitchmedia.org/article/audre-lorde-thought-self-care-act-political-warfare accessed 19 October 2021

Orentlicher D 2020 Ruth Bader Ginsburg Helped Shape the Modern Era of Women’s Rights – Even Before She Went on the Supreme Court https://theconversation.com/ruth-bader-ginsburg-helped-shape-the-modern-era-of-womens-rights-even-before-she-went-on-the-supreme-court-95705 accessed 11 October 2021

Pierce B and Kiewit L 2020 NICRO: The High Rate of Offender Recidivism http://www.702.co.za/podcasts/269/tonight-with-lester-kiewit/279121/nicro-the-high-rate-ofoffender-recidivism accessed 7 April 2021

Sain R 2016 Prisoners Lose Bid to Appeal St Albans Torture Case https://www.iol.co.za/news/south-africa/eastern-cape/prisoners-lose-bid-to-appeal-st-albans-torture-case-2020050 accessed 28 October 2021

Sayer F 2021 Nigerian Museums Must Tell Stories of Slavery With More Complexity and Nuance https://theconversation.com/nigerian-museums-must-tell-stories-of-slavery-with-more-complexity-and-nuance-169785?utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=The%20Weekend%20Conversation%20-%2021007207 accessed 30 October 2021

Raphaely C 2014 St Albans: Tales of Torture and Intimidation Continue https://www.dailymaverick.co.za/article/2014-06-17-st-albans-tales-of-torture-and-intimidation-continue/ accessed 31 October 2021

Raphaely C 2015 Bringing Back Accountability: How Prison Torture Underlines SA's Crisis of Leadership https://www.dailymaverick.co.za/article/2015-02-16-bringing-back-accountability-how-prison-torture-underlines-sas-crisis-of-l accessed 31 October 2021

Raphaely C 2015 St Albans Prison Torture: A Conspiracy of Silence https://www.dailymaverick.co.za/article/2015-03-03-st-albans-prison-torture-a-conspiracy-of-silence/#.VlwQpXYrKUk accessed 31 October 2021

Vladeck SI 2021 The Supreme Court is Making New Law in the Shadows https://www.nytimes.com/2021/04/15/opinion/supreme-court-religion-orders.html?action=click&module=RelatedLinks&pgtype accessed 12 October 2021

Weiner G 2017 The Power of the Courts is Messing Up Politics https://www.nytimes.com/2017/11/11/opinion/sunday/the-power-of-the-courts-is-messing-up-politics.html?action=click&module=RelatedLinks&pgtyp accessed 12 October 2021

Published

2022-07-28

How to Cite

Lӧtter C. (2022). Judging the Holy Cow: Examining the Role of Implicit Bias in Judicial Rulings – An Analysis of the Decision in Mbena v Minister of Justice and Correctional Services 2015 4 All SA 361 (ECP). Potchefstroom Electronic Law Journal, 25, (Published 28 July 2022) pp 1 – 29. https://doi.org/10.17159/1727-3781/2022/v25ia12743

Issue

Section

Case Notes