Prison. Image via unsplash

Prison Journalism: Navigating Parole

Dean Mashimbwe, a Zimbabwean migrant residing in Cape Town, was incarcerated at Pollsmoor Correctional Centre from 2016 until 2017.


Prison. Image via unsplash

When I went to prison, I was supposed to stay in jail for 2 years, but there was a possibility for me to be released on parole if I attended programs, verified my address, and had a relative sign for me. However, my biggest challenge was that all my family was back in Zimbabwe, and I didn’t have anyone to sign parole for me.

Unexpected Assistance and Release Conditions 

I thought it was just prison stories; little did I know my fellow Zimbabwean inmate was serious. So, he, who had shared his own experiences with me, went out of jail in November 2016. Upon his release, he graciously signed parole for me, enabling my release on 31 May 2017. I didn’t even expect it when I was called by the parole body. As they gave me the date of my release, I was so glad that finally, I am going out of jail, but these are the conditions which work with my parole:

  • I must not commit an offence.
  • I must not possess an offensive weapon.
  • I must be under the supervision of a Community Corrections Officer.
  • I must obey any direction from the assigned Community Corrections Officer.

So, I was supposed to stay 2 years in jail, but after the parole, I only stayed 7 months of my sentence, so the rest I was going to finish outside. But this comes with a lot of conditions; you just don’t go freely like you finished your sentence.

The Concepts and Types of Parole

In this article, I will talk about the parole, what it is, and how it works, just in case there are people out there who don’t know anything about it. I will also talk about some other means how someone can be released out of jail before their sentence is finished.

Alternative Routes to Early Release

Besides parole, any inmate can be released freely in jail when the president commands that there is an amnesty.

There are 2 different types of parole: it’s either a normal parole or a medical parole. A medical parole is given to an inmate whose health conditions are not suitable for the prison environment, while a full parole is a parole that is given to any inmate who qualifies for it. Inmates who have 10 years and above can only be granted parole when they serve half of their sentence, while others can only do 3-9 months then get parole.

Post-parole Adjustments and Support

When I got parole, I didn’t have a place to stay, so when I was out of prison, I had to call Celeste Van Est, a former Restore NGO volunteer, who took me to a shelter. She was always visiting me and made sure about my well-being. There is a big similarity between probation and parole because you’re not allowed to commit any crime or else, you’re being sent to jail if you break your parole conditions.

Parole Violations

During the time I was in jail, I have seen a lot of people who would be released on parole, but after 2 weeks or so, they would come back to jail, the reason being a parole break. Once you break the parole, the prison will tell you to finish your sentence, and you’re not given any chance for parole again.

Risks and Benefits of Parole

According to what I observed, people who are likely to break the parole after being released are those people who go back to gang-related societies and those who are drug addicts and staying in the streets. And mostly, these people commit crimes such as murder.

I think offering paroles to inmates is a big advantage to the government as well as the prison management because it reduces overcrowding in jails as well as reducing costs such as food to give prisoners. But I think Paroles are also disadvantages because people always commit crimes knowing that they will be given parole and come back to jail.

DISCLAIMER: Submission published as received

Should you wish to assist in the rehabilitation of former inmates and help put money into the pockets of those who have struggled to earn a living during and after incarceration, click HERE 

RESTORE is an NGO based in Cape Town, South Africa, providing inmates at Pollsmoor Prison with restorative justice opportunities.

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