The minister of correctional services must explain the delays in developing a policy on the special remission of sentences, the DA said on Sunday.

A number of serious flaws in the process were identified in a preliminary report on a previous round of remissions presented to the portfolio committee in August 2005, said Democratic Alliance spokesman correctional services spokesman James Selfe.

“Not least of which was the high number of crimes committed by released prisoners and their re-admission to correctional facilities,” he said in a statement.

The report made a number of recommendations about more effectively managing similar processes in the future.

Selfe said the operational plan for the special remissions granted by President Jacob Zuma this year did not substantially differ from that of 2005.

“It therefore appears that neither the recommendations nor any of the concerns highlighted by the preliminary report have been taken into consideration,” he said.

South Africans needed to be assured that their security would not be compromised by the early release of 35,000 prisoners.

“A clear policy framework could mitigate the potential risks of early release of prisoners and identify mechanisms to address any potential negative consequences,” said Selfe.

In its 2006/2007 annual report, the correctional services department said a policy regarding special remission was being developed.

“To my knowledge, no such policy had been presented to the portfolio committee as yet,” he said.

Selfe said the DA would ask to be briefed by the correctional services department on the status of that policy.

On Freedom Day, on April 27, Zuma announced the first special remission of sentences he has granted since taking office.

He said there would be a six months' blanket special remission of sentence for all sentenced offenders, probationers and parolees.

An additional 12 months' special remission of sentence would be made for all sentenced inmates, probationers and parolees, excluding those sentenced for aggressive, sexual, firearm and drug-related offences, and people declared dangerous criminals.

Zuma said the ministers of the Justice, Crime Prevention and Security cluster would provide the details and specific circumstances of those who would benefit from the latest reduction.

He said the categories and lengths of remission were based on a Cabinet decision made in relation to the special remission of 2005.

There was a remission when former president Nelson Mandela was inaugurated on May 10, 1994; the first Freedom Day on April 27, 1995; Mandela's 80th birthday on July 18, 1998; and to mark the first year of former president Thabo Mbeki's second term in office on May 30, 2005. - Sapa