Botho Molosankwe

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LESS than a month after getting a presidential pardon and an early release, 43 prisoners are back behind bars for re-offending.

The prisoners were part of the 37 783 who were released from May 15 after President Jacob Zuma decided to grant special remission of sentence to certain categories of offenders.

However, the 43 are alleged to have gone back to their lives of crime immediately after tasting freedom. They were arrested for a range of offences such as rape, attempted murder, robbery, assault, kidnapping, theft, stock theft, possession of drugs, possession of stolen goods and housebreaking.

Two of them are women.

Department of Correctional Service’s spokeswoman Sibongile Khumalo did not give further details on where the crimes were committed but confirmed that two re-offenders had been released from Gauteng prisons. Two of the offences were committed in Gauteng and the others in other provinces

Khumalo said that before they were considered for remission, the prisoners had attended a pre-release programme. They had been taught life-skills and it had also been drummed into their heads that they had to leave the life of crime behind.

But this will not have any bearing on their original sentences that they never completed because they were pardoned. They may also in the future qualify for another pardon. “It will depend on what criteria will be used in the future to pardon them so we can’t say whether they will qualify for the pardon or not,” Khumalo said.

In light of the re-arrest of the prisoners, Tizina Ramagaga, researcher in the Crime and Justice Programme at the Institute for Security Studies, said it was possible the released prisoners had not been completely rehabilitated hence they turned to crime so soon after being released.

While the department tried its best to rehabilitate prisoners, she said, they were in some instances not able to provide services to all prisoners.

“I spoke to someone from Nicro (National Institute for Crime Prevention and the Reintegration of Offenders) who said sometimes they are not even able to get into the prisons,” she said.