Drop in number of prisoners who qualify for Covid-19 special parole
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Cape Town - The Department of Correctional Services says 17 922 sentenced offenders qualified for the Covid-19 Special Parole Dispensation, not 19 000 as predicted.
On Wednesday, the portfolio committee on justice and correctional services was briefed by the department on the release of prisoners to ease pressure on facilities during the pandemic.
When President Cyril Ramaphosa announced a state of disaster on March 15, 2020, the department developed and implemented a response strategy that entailed prevention, containment, treatment and recovery. Despite measures put in place, the department said they continued to be confronted by the glaring impossibility of maintaining social distancing in its facilities due to overcrowding.
Chief Deputy Commissioner for Community Corrections, Anna Molepo, said in addressing, managing and combating the spread of the Covid-19 in Correctional Centres, the department recommended to Ramaphosa to place selected categories of low risk sentenced offenders on parole to continue to serve their sentences in the system of community corrections.
She told the committee that offenders who were to benefit from the Special Parole Dispensation were to be placed out as from May 20, 2020, in controllable groups as per identified category and sentence group.
It was projected that a total of approximately 19 000 offenders who committed non-violent crimes would benefit, but 17 922 were released. A sentenced offender who has or will reach their minimum detention periods within a period of 60 months from April 27, 2020, qualified.
“Regions were provided with the list to verify and purify. This resulted in a purified total figure of 18 544. Other offenders that had been identified to qualify picked up further charges hence the drop of qualifying cases to 17 922,” said Molepo.
As of April 2021, 13 989 offenders were released.