Kenyan Prisoners weren’t deterred by the threat of the death penalty
Photo via Adobestock

DA: ‘Release of 19 000 prisoners shows little regard for the safety’

Following the release fo 19 000 prisoners on parole in May, the DA say that government has not informed them of the inmates prior records.


Kenyan Prisoners weren’t deterred by the threat of the death penalty
Photo via Adobestock

The decision to release of 19 000 prisoners during the early stages of the nationwide lockdown raised eyebrows, but it was supposedly implemented so that only non-violent criminals would be released on parole to be strictly monitored. 

Over a month later, the Democratic Alliance (DA) are requesting an update on their situation, and they charge that government have not released specific details about each of the criminals and their propensity for violent crime. 

Prisoner release ‘cannot work in SA’ 

The DA’s Shadow Minister of Justice and Correctional Services, Adv Glynnis Breytenbach, said that in releasing the prisoners and not accounting for their progress or prior criminal histories, government has acted recklessly and possibly endangered the lives of South Africans. 

“While the government has given assurances that prisoners who were released on parole were convicted of non-violent crimes, we do not have any indication whether they have previously been convicted of violent crimes,” she said. 

She said that residents in communities into which the prisoners were released are concerned for their safety, and charged that the decision to release the prison is simply untenable in a country with a crime rate as high as South Africa’s. 

“Many communities across the country have raised concerns in light of the rising incidences of violent crime since the easing of the lockdown,” she said. 

“The DA is of the view that the placement on parole of prisoners to relieve overcrowding may be a model that has worked well in developed countries, but it cannot simply be transferred into the South African context without question. In doing so, government has shown little regard for the safety of ordinary South Africans and have possibly contributed to an already deteriorating humanitarian crisis.”

DA submit parliamentary questions to DoJ

The DA will submit parliamentary questions to the Minister of Justice and Correctional Services, Ronald Lamola and his department to seek clarity on the release of parolees, and have requested the following information points:

  1. How many of the intended 19 000 prisoners were released on parole;
  2. Have the released parolees had any prior violent crime convictions;
  3. A provincial breakdown of parolees that will/have been released;
  4. What other options were considered before the decision of reducing overpopulation in prisons; and
  5. What is the capacity of South African prisons currently?

“While South Africa’s overcrowded prisons are under immense pressure to fight against the COVID-19 pandemic, we cannot allow a situation where criminal offenders are released into communities without having carefully considered their past convictions,” said Breytenbach.

“The DA trusts that Minister Lamola will respond to the matter with the necessary urgency and transparency as correct data is needed to protect our communities.”