Covid-19: Ramaphosa allows nearly 19 000 prisoners to go on parole

Covid-19: Ramaphosa allows nearly 19 000 prisoners to go on parole

- Mzansi is on lockdown but apparently some prisoners have been set free

- President Cyril Ramaphosa has given the early release of select prisoners the green light

- This comes in an apparent attempt to reduce the spread of Covid-19 in correctional facilities

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President Cyril Ramaphosa has allowed certain prisoners to be placed on parole as part of the efforts to combat Covid-19.

In a statement issued by the presidency on Friday, it was explained that reducing the number of prisoners in the system could help limit infections.

"The President has taken this step in response to a call by the United Nations to all countries to reduce prison populations so that social distancing and self-isolation conditions can be observed during this period. In South Africa, as in many other countries, correctional facilities have witnessed outbreaks of coronavirus infections among inmates and personnel."

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Ramaphosa revealed that a staggering 19 000 inmates will now be released into society.

"The decision taken by the President to combat the spread of Covid-19 in correctional centres could relieve our correctional services facilities of just under 19,000 inmates out of a population of 155,000."

In an attempt to reassure citizens, the President noted that only low-risk inmates would be released.

"The parole dispensation will apply to low-risk inmates who have passed their minimum detention period or will approach this period in the coming five years. This dispensation excludes inmates sentenced to life imprisonment or serving terms for specified other serious crimes, including sexual offences, murder and attempted murder, gender based violence and child abuse."

The newly-released inmates will not have their sentences remitted, but will instead be placed on parole.

"Inmates that will be affected by this decision will be placed on parole instead of having their sentences remitted. They will therefore continue to serve their sentence under Community Corrections until they reach their respective sentence expiry dates. Offenders may be arrested and ultimately reincarcerated if they violate their release conditions."

This early release plan is set to take place over time, with Minister Ronald Lamola set to elaborate in due course.

"The placement of qualifying sentenced offenders will take place over a 10-week period and will commence as soon as all Parole Board processes have been finalised and all relevant rehabilitation and pre-release programmes are attended."

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