President Cyril Ramaphosa has authorised the parole of selected categories of sentenced offenders as part of the country’s coronavirus lockdown

In a statement published on Friday (8 May), the Presidency said that the measure is being introduced to combat the spread of Covid-19 in correctional facilities so that social distancing and self-isolation conditions can be properly observed.

“In South Africa, as in many other countries, correctional facilities have witnessed outbreaks of coronavirus infections among inmates and personnel.

“A number of countries across the world have already heeded the call by the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights and have released a number of offenders in detention,” it said.

The Presidency said that Ramaphosa made the decision in terms of Section 82(1)(a) of the Correctional Services Act which empowers him to authorise at any time the placement on correctional supervision or parole of any sentenced prisoner, subject to conditions that may be recommended by the Correctional Supervision and Parole Board.

The Presidency said that this decision could relieve the country’s correctional services facilities of just under 19,000 inmates out of a population of 155,000.

The parole dispensation will apply to low-risk inmates who have passed their minimum detention period or will approach this period in the coming five years, it said.

“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 may be arrested and ultimately reincarcerated if they violate their release conditions, the Presidency said.

“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 finalised and all relevant rehabilitation and pre-release programmes are attended.

“Minister of Justice Mr Ronald Lamola will in due course provide more details on the parole placement programme in a public briefing.”

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