'Let us debate parole openly'

MINISTER of Correctional Services Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula told a parole board summit that there should be an open debate on the performance of the country's new parole system, which has been in place for four-and-a-half years.

"We must all agree that parole - as a legal dispensation - happens in a dynamic socio-legal paradigm. For us to best ensure the effectiveness of parole, we must have a deep appreciation of the society we function in," Mapisa-Nqakula said in Boksburg, Ekurhuleni, yesterday.

She said community participation in parole boards and correctional, rehabilitation and reintegration initiatives should be encouraged.

Mapisa-Nqakula called for creative solutions to the challenges faced - particularly in the context of financial challenges facing the country and department.

"I want us to confront the (backlogs) boldly with the understanding that we must resolve it," she said.

She said in considering the recommendations of the National Council on Correctional Services (NCCS) about the placement of lifers on parole, she had identified a number of cases that should not have been submitted to the NCCS in the first place.

She called for a review of the whole system starting with the case management committees that must ensure that sufficient information is gathered to help make certain that all make informed decisions.

Challenges of limited victim participation and in a number of instances, non-participation of other criminal justice partners, must be addressed to better oil the wheels of the parole system.

"I do not want to hear that you are not able to track down victims of crime that must be consulted in the making of decisions," she said.

Since their establishment in July 2005 the country's 52 parole boards have considered more than 200000 applications for parole and granted parole to more than 100000 offenders.

Maphisa-Nqakula said she was "pleased that the issues of medical parole would be discussed by delegates".