Johannesburg - More than 380 awaiting-trial prisoners incarcerated for more than two years are no longer in prison, the correctional services ministry said on Thursday.
Since the implementation of section 49G of the Correctional Services Act in July last year, the number of inmates in this category dropped from around 2200 to 1816, spokesman Logan Maistry said.
These awaiting-trial prisoners, or remand detainees (RDs), had either had their charges withdrawn, been released on bail, or been sentenced.
“Section 49G of the Correctional Services Act, as amended, determines that a RD may not be detained for a period exceeding two years without such matter having been brought to the attention of the court concerned,” Maistry said.
As of Tuesday, out of a total of 157,394 inmates, 43,735, or 27.8 percent, were RDs.
Correctional Services Minister Sibusiso Ndebele said: “In our continent, the number of RDs, or awaiting-trial detainees, is a major concern.”
Cabinet had approved the White Paper on Remand Detention in September, and this was later amended, consulted on, and signed into policy last month.
“The white paper, in conjunction with the Correctional Matters Amendment Act, seeks to improve the management of RDs in department of correctional services facilities.
“The constitutional right of 'innocent until proven guilty' underpins the white paper,” Ndebele said.
RD facilities, therefore, needed to balance the minimal limitation of individual rights with the need to ensure secure, safe custody.
“The white paper recognises the challenges associated with persons in remand detention, although they have not been found guilty of any crime,” he said.
The department and the criminal justice review committee together began tracking RDs who had been detained longest and this had helped identify the factors that delay the finalisation of such cases.