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Days, weeks, even months before Cekeshe, Dalindyebo, others are released under special remissions

17 December 2019 - 12:52 By Nonkululeko Njilo
It is unclear if the 14,647 criminal offenders in prison facilities, who were granted special remission by President Cyril Ramaphosa on Monday, will spend Christmas day with their loved ones. Jailed Fees Must Fall activist Kanya Cekeshe, pictured, is among those who qualify for remission.
It is unclear if the 14,647 criminal offenders in prison facilities, who were granted special remission by President Cyril Ramaphosa on Monday, will spend Christmas day with their loved ones. Jailed Fees Must Fall activist Kanya Cekeshe, pictured, is among those who qualify for remission.
Image: Vusumzi_Gqalane via Twitter

It is unclear if any of the 14,647 criminal offenders in prison facilities, who were granted special remission by President Cyril Ramaphosa on Monday, will spend Christmas Day with their loved ones.

This is according to the department of correctional services spokesperson, Singabakho Nxumalo, who said the offenders would first be subjected to a “pre-release” programme, which he said was “difficult to put an estimation on”.

“It could be a matter of days, weeks, pending all the necessary documentation and sitting of the parole board,” said Nxumalo.

Ramaphosa announced, alongside Correctional Services Minister Ronald Ramola, that 51,063 criminal offenders out of SA's total 233,945 offenders would be eligible for parole. The figure includes those in custody and parolees in communities.    

Nxumalo said the programme entailed checking of the inmates' files, which needed to have reports from psychologists and social workers, for example.  

The reports would be followed by a parole board’s sitting that would establish if the offender has any support system, physical address, prospects of adjusting to the environment, among other requirements, after which the board could decide to grant parole or not.

During a previous special remissions declaration by then president Thabo Mbeki in 2005, the release of prisoners took place over a period of three to nine months.

Lamola said on Monday that the process would be implemented in a phased approach, starting with the release of women, children, youth and people with disabilities and then move on to other categories of offenders.

Attendance of a pre-release programme by offenders would also be a prerequisite before any release. “Furthermore, sentenced offenders who may not have participated in other relevant programmes will be prioritised for such pre-release programmes before being considered for release.

“The Risk and Relapse Probability Report is one of the key tools that is going to be used to assess and mitigate any risk associated with reoffending,” he said.

Lamola said SA’s offender population, at the end of November 2019, was 163,015 across the country’s 243 correctional centres — for both sentenced and remand detainees. There were 70,930 parolees and probationers under the system of community corrections — these are offenders who are no longer in correctional facilities but are already in communities.

“What should be noted is that more than two-thirds (71,3%) of beneficiaries to be considered for the 2019 presidential review of sentence expiry dates are already in communities as parolees and probationers, and not in correctional facilities,” said Lamola.

Of those within correctional centres, 8.99% of the total inmate population will be considered. “Of those to be considered in correctional facilities, the greater part of the eligible 14,647 inmates are closer to their parole consideration dates.

“Therefore, should they be granted parole, they will be released into the system of community corrections as parolees and will be closely monitored by correctional services officials until their sentence expiry dates.”

The DA described the announcement of remissions as a slap in the face.

“The under-resourced and severely constrained police force works tirelessly, often with little or no recognition to investigate crime and prepare evidence for criminal trial.

“Prosecutors work equally tirelessly under severe constraints to prosecute those cases in an effort to make SA a safer place for all. The fruits of their hard labour are now to be rewarded by 'special remissions' for over 14,000 convicted criminals,” said Glynnis Breytenbach, the DA's Shadow Minister for Justice and Correctional Services.


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