The dignity of prisoners and their families : a theological response.
The research focuses on the human dignity of prisoners and their families. The dominant human rights perspective of human dignity in terms of retributive justice is critiqued for its punishment approach of imprisonment which does not meet the benchmark of respecting human dignity but instead perpetuates experiences of indignity for prisoners and their families. While the approach of human rights under restorative justice as opposed to retributive justice is supported as a better approach to counter indignity, it’s dominant approaches are also shown to particularly overlook the dignity of prisoners and their families by often not focusing on their plight, and neglecting the very values of restorative justice. A case study of the Phoenix Zululand restorative justice programme, in KwaZulu-Natal South Africa confirms that a restorative justice approach that respects these values can re-humanise prisoners and their families. The study includes a discussion of the Christian perspective on human dignity, which forms a basis for a theological response to the indignity experienced by prisoners and their families. The concepts of Imago Dei and Imago Trinitatis as fully revealed in Jesus Christ lay the foundation for human dignity in the Christian perspective. The study concludes by showing how this theological basis has implications for the Church in working with prisoners and their families and also highlights some areas for future research.