English in the prison services: a case of breaking the law?

De Klerk, V.A. and Barkhuizen, G. (2002) English in the prison services: a case of breaking the law? World Englishes, 21 (1). pp. 9-22. ISSN 0883-2919



Official URL: http://dx.doi.org/10.1111/1467-971X.00228


In this paper we report on an investigation into the use of English in a prison in the Eastern Cape Province, run by the Department of Correctional Services (CS) five years after the declaration of an official multilingual policy. The investigation consisted of a range of interviews and observations in this institution, aimed at establishing the extent to which the national language policy is actually being implemented on the ground. Findings suggest that the use of English predominates in the high, official domains, that there is a marked avoidance of Afrikaans, and that Xhosa, the main language of the Eastern Cape Province, increasingly occupies the lower, unofficial domains. Tensions between policy and practice are discussed, and it is argued that the CS has shown that pragmatism is a much stronger force than ideology. While the roles of Xhosa and Afrikaans appear to be in the process of reversing in the Grahamstown prison, English has emerged as stronger there than it has ever been before. And because it will continue to be a necessary prerequisite for the mobility and promotion of staff in the country as a whole, and the lingua franca for an increasingly mobile criminal population (which means the prisons are likely to become increasingly linguistically diverse, rather than settling into regional patterns), everyone will have to have some proficiency in English, which, ironically, will promote and strengthen it even more.

Item Type:Article
Additional Information:The definitive version is available at www.blackwell-synergy.com
Uncontrolled Keywords:English language; prisons; correctional services; policy; practice; ideology; pragmatism; Afrikaans; Xhosa; Eastern Cape; South Africa
Subjects:Y Unknown > Subjects to be assigned
Divisions:Faculty > Faculty of Humanities > English Language and Linguistics
ID Code:451
Deposited On:02 Nov 2006
Last Modified:06 Jan 2012 16:18
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