Remissions not the way to cure jail overcrowding – DA

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selebi march 15

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Paroled former police chief Jackie Selebi has been transferred to a private facility for treatment, a report says. File photo: Sapa

The blanket remissions of sentences by President Jacob Zuma undermines judicial processes, independence and discretion, and the careful consideration of factors on which judges hand down sentences, the DA said on Sunday.

Referring in particular to the impending special remissions of sentences of former national police commissioner Jackie Selebi and Zuma’s former financial advisor, Schabir Shaik, the party’s chairperson of its federal executive, James Selfe, said: “Alternative ways should be sought to address the overcrowding in our prisons. The use of alternative community-based sentences, for example, enables perpetrators to pay back into society what they have taken out through acts of crime, without making a mockery of justice.”

Zuma announced in his Freedom Day speech at the Union Buildings on Friday that there would be remission of sentences for some of the country’s prisoners. Zuma said prisoners who qualified would receive a blanket six to 12-month reduction of their prison sentences, saying that sentenced offenders guilty of specific offenses such as “aggressive, firearm and sexual related offenses” did not qualify for the remission, as was the case with people declared dangerous criminals.

It was estimated that around 20 855 probationers and parolees, and 14 651 sentenced inmates would be released conditionally or unconditionally in terms of the process, which critics have said included Selebi and Shaik.

Selebi was jailed for 15 years for accepting bribes, and his sentence, begun towards the end of last year, has been marked by sickness and hospitalisation and reports of possible medical parole. Shaik’s jail sentence, of 15 years for corruption in 2006, was cut short in 2009 when he was released on medical parole.

The President’s pardon has been called a “slap on the wrist” for some prisoners and an insult to victims of crime.

The DA said: “Blanket remission of sentence diminishes the deterrent effect of sentences.”

Judges, said Selfe, handed down sentences on a case-by-case and individual basis based on the law and the circumstances at play. - Pretoria News

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