Image via: flickr
Image via: flickr
Minister of Justice and Correctional Services Ronald Lamola, on Friday 8 May, announced that low-risk offenders — offenders who may have committed petty crimes — will be considered for parole by the various parole boards.
This comes just after President Cyril Ramaphosa authorised the parole of almost 19 000 prisoners in an attempt to curb the spread of COVID-19. With overcrowding in many South African prisons, the decision has come as an absolute necessity for social distancing and places of isolation.
Lamola briefed the media on Friday on the special COVID-19 parole dispensation. He said prisoners are amongst the most vulnerable in our society. There are currently 172 cases in correctional facilities across the country.
Lamola assured South Africans that only low-risk petty crime offenders would be considered for parole. He said these offenders will reach their Minimum Detention Periods within the next five years.
But what exactly constitutes a petty crime? What constitutes low-risk?
According to Lamola, petty crimes can be classified as “crimes of need” like shoplifting, and trespassing. Low-risk offenders were classified as “non-violent offenders”.
In other words, prisoners convicted of crimes such as sexual offences, murder, attempted murder, gender-based violence and child abuse, will not be liable for parole.
Inmates sentenced to life imprisonment will also not be considered for parole.
Lamola said the low-risk individuals and their crimes have been carefully scrutinised. There must also be a plan in place for relatives or people at a home address to receive the prisoner.
The parolees will be monitored and observed and recalled if necessary.
A statement released by the presidency on Friday 8 May prepared the country and its citizens for Ramaphosa’s decision.
“The president has taken this decision in terms of Section 82(1)(a) of the Correctional Services Act of 1998 which empowers the President to authorise at any time the placement on correctional supervision or parole of any sentenced prisoner,” it said.
“The decision taken by the president to combat the spread of COVID-19 in correctional centres could relieve our correctional services facilities of just under 19 000 inmates out of a population of 155 000,” it added.