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THE PAROLE system – again in the spotlight after it was discovered that one of the accused in the Gumtree murder was a parolee with a violent rap sheet – is crumbling, with not enough officers to supervise offenders on their release, critics say.
The DA’s James Selfe said yesterday that the current system made it easy for them to commit more crimes.
Selfe, the DA’s spokesman on Correctional Services, said there were too few parole officers to oversee offenders once they were released.
“Supervision is not as good as it should be and parolees frequently resort to crime,” Selfe said.
Celia Dawson, deputy chief executive of the National Institute for Crime Prevention and Reintegration of Offenders (Nicro), said there were no figures of how many parolees re-offended, but she agreed with Selfe, saying there was a shortage of parole officers and that falling back into crime was easy.
Dawson said prison was meant to be a place of rehabilitation, but without enough social workers and psychologists it remained a challenge to rehabilitate criminals.
They were responding following the news that one of the four men arrested in connection with the murder of Olwyn Cowley, pictured below, is a parolee who, in 2003, was one of the city’s most wanted men.
Soegbudien Abvajee, 52, of Hazendal, Athlone, was the fourth man arrested in connection with the Cowley murder. The four, Jason Elias, 30, and Shawaal Staggie, 26, both of Mitchells Plain, and Rameez Felix, 29, and Abvajee, both of Hazendal, appeared in court and had their case postponed to next week in the Mitchells Plain Magistrate’s Court. It was confirmed, in court, that Abvajee is on parole after being jailed for armed robbery.
Selfe said it was shocking that someone who was captured as one of the city’s most wanted, was on parole and then rearrested for murder.
In 2003, the Cape Argus reported that he was one of the city’s most wanted men.
An identikit picture of him was published, showing him wearing what appeared to be a police cap. He dressed in a police uniform during robberies.
Abvajee was arrested for a liquor store robbery in Ottery in 2001.
Dressed in a police uniform, he and two others emptied the cash register and safe and fled with more than R21 000 in cash.
Abvajee was said to have escaped from Pollsmoor Prison soon after being arrested in connection with the robbery. Police at the time suspected that he was involved with other scams around the peninsula.
The trio arrested for the Ottery liquor store robbery seemed to have a regular modus operandi which included impersonating police officers to “arrest” and then rob ordinary people.
As it stands, there is only one parole officer for every 50 parolees, and Selfe said the ratio could be higher in some areas in the country.
He said the approach to parole was mechanistic. If a convict finished a proportion of his or her sentence he or she qualified for parole, and if there was no reason not to release the convict then he or she would be paroled.
“Many abscond from parole and supervision is not as good as it should be, parolees frequently resort to crime,” Selfe said.
“The system is far from perfect, all parolees should be electronically tagged so that they can be checked at any time to ensure they are not breaking the conditions of their parole,” Selfe said.
Dawson said because of overcrowding people came out worse than they were when they went in.
“Parole should be tightly regulated and you must serve some time before you can be considered.”
Rehabilitation, she said, was not an exact science and assessments were used to determine the risk.
“There is nothing definite that can tell you when someone is rehabilitated and the offender will go back to a life of crime if he is not rehabilitated,” she said.