letter “Are prisons more comfortable”, in The Star of June 27 refers. On April 27, in keeping with the spirit of celebrating of 18 years of freedom and in line with established international practice, in terms of Section 84 (2) of the constitution, President Jacob Zuma granted a special remission of sentence to specific categories of sentenced offenders, probationers and parolees.

Offenders who pose a serious risk to society, particularly those declared to be dangerous criminals, have been excluded from remissions. It should be noted that all offenders, bar those lifers who are refused parole, return to communities at the end of their sentence or when they are paroled.

The Department of Correctional Services (DCS) is well aware of the risks of reintegration back into society, and have therefore put in place appropriate pre-release interventions. Of the 41 732 probationers/parolees/ offenders released, 25 338 were already in communities and released from community corrections, and 16 394 were in jails.

As at June 22, 0.18 percent (77) re-arrests were recorded.

One re-offender is one too many. But it would be optimistic to expect none of the offenders would be re-arrested, or that everyone released benefited from the rehabilitation programmes in prison.

Remissions were previously granted on May 30, 2005 in the first year of former president Thabo Mbeki’s second term of office. Previous remissions were granted on May 10, 1994 at former president Nelson Mandela’s inauguration and again on April 27, 1995 on the first anniversary of SA’s freedom. It was again granted on July 18, 1998 – Mandela’s 80th birthday.

Previous remissions were granted to coincide with key national days.

In terms of the DCS Guidelines for Special Remission of Sentence 2012, pre-release assessments and pre-release programmes were presented to the qualifying groups prior to being released and/or released on parole. National, regional and area management task teams are daily facilitating, monitoring and evaluating the process in partnership with other government departments, non-government organisations, community based organisations, faith- based organisations, families of offenders, offenders, correctional officials and the community.

As the government, we remain fully committed to our shared vision of a caring and just society, enjoining us to afford even those who err against society the opportunity to mend their ways under humane conditions. Correctional Services Minister S’bu Ndebele is passionate about galvanising support for our transformative agenda from prisons to corrections, and preparing those of our offenders who need to get ready to be reintegrated as functional members of society.

Logan Maistry

Ministry of Correctional Services