32 of South Africa’s prisoners are children

The number of young inmates in South Africa’s prisons – those under the age of 18 – has dropped by about 83% since 2015/16, according to data from the department of correctional services.

In August 2022, the age of criminal capacity was raised from 10 years of age to 12. The Child Justice Act means that anyone under 12 cannot be arrested and must be referred to a probation officer instead.

Last year, there were 32 children in prison. That’s a six-fold decrease in comparison with the 187 children in prison seven years earlier. Of the 32 young prisoners, just one was a girl.

Meanwhile, the number of remand detainees, children in prison while awaiting trial, has increased. In 2021/22, there were 47 and by 2022/23 that had increased to 65.

Sentenced youngsters are placed in secure care centres for children managed by the department of social development.