Parole bonanza for convicts serving time

Offenders are benefiting from early paroles due to the spread of Covid-19 in jails.
Offenders are benefiting from early paroles due to the spread of Covid-19 in jails.
Image: Elijar Mushiana

The correctional services department is in a rush to release almost 17,000 prisoners in just over four weeks in an effort to reduce the prison population in line with a special parole dispensation.

The department has until July 17 to place thousands of sentenced offenders who will benefit from a special parole dispensation announced by President Cyril Ramaphosa on May 8.

The special parole for low-risk qualifying sentenced offenders with five or less years remaining on their sentences is aimed to reduce the prisoner population from overcrowded correctional facilities to manage the spread of Covid-19.

The department's spokesperson Singabakho Nxumalo said the placement of convicts who will benefit started on June 10 and 2,280 have been released.

Nxumalo said the rate of cases of special paroles being considered "is expected to increase in the coming weeks".

"The project is scheduled to run over a 10-week period and with placement of qualifying offenders... to [run until] July 17 2020. The schedule provides for placement of qualifying offenders in controllable groups and that vulnerable groups are prioritised," Nxumalo said.

He said the number of placements per week had already been gradually increasing from week 2 and it is expected that more placements will be achieved during the remaining period.

"The department is working tirelessly to ensure that the target date is met whilst ensuring that the consideration, victim participation and offering of programmes to qualifying offenders are not compromised," Nxumalo said.

This comes as several correctional facilities across the country have recorded Covid-19 infections with several hundreds of inmates testing positive.

Nxumalo said the increase in the number of Covid-19 cases had, among others, created a stigma against its employees at correctional facilities.

"The increase in the number of officials and offenders testing positive for Covid-19 has created a stigma against offenders and officials.

"This is negatively affecting the confirmation of support systems of offenders who are benefiting from the special parole dispensation, in that some families are reluctant to sign for some offenders with fear that upon placement the offenders will infect them."

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