President Cyril Ramaphosa has authorised the release of just under 19 000 parolees to help fight the spread of COVID-19 in correctional facilities, which are considered high-risk areas for infection.
The presidency released a statement saying, “the President has taken this step in response to a call by the United Nations to all countries to reduce prison populations so that social distancing and self-isolation conditions can be observed during this period.”
This release could relieve correctional facilities of just under 19 000 out of 155 000 prisoners. The parole dispensation is applicable to low-risk inmates who have passed their minimum detention period or those who be will approaching this period in the next five years.
The presidency made it clear that “this dispensation excludes inmates sentenced to life imprisonment or serving terms for specified other serious crimes, including sexual offences, murder and attempted murder, gender-based violence and child abuse.”
“Inmates that will be affected by this decision will be placed on parole instead of having their sentences remitted. They will therefore continue to serve their sentence under Community Corrections until they reach their respective sentence expiry dates.”
Offenders who violate their parole may be arrested and ultimately reincarcerated.
“The placement of qualifying sentenced offenders will take place over a 10-week period and will commence as soon as all Parole Board processes have been flnalised and all relevant rehabilitation and pre-release programmes are attended.”
The presidency concluded saying that Minister of Justice, Mr Ronald Lamola, would provide more details on the parole placement programme and that it will be held as a public briefing.