Justice minister gives update on COVID-19 parole dispensation
Ronald Lamola is predicting a busy time for parole boards across the country to facilitate the release of 19 000 low-risk offenders.
As reported by The South African on last Friday 8 May, President Cyril Ramaphosa authorised the parole of almost 19 000 prisoners to combat the spread of the COVID-19 infection rate in South Africa’s overcrowded correctional facilities.
The president’s decision to grant low-risk prisoners parole followed directives issued by the United Nations (UN).
On Friday 15 May, Justice Minister Ronald Lamola said on Ukhozi FM’s current affairs show Ezanamuhla that in excess of 14 300 prisoners who are now set to be released on parole, were due to appear before the parole board in the next three to six months, and that the others were up for appearance between two to five years’ time.
“We are implementing the president’s announcement and the process is still ongoing,” the minister said.
Only low-risk offenders to be released
“We still stand by the statement issued by the Presidency that prisoners who committed serious crimes, such as murder, attempted murder, gender-based violence, child abuse and sexual offences, will remain in prison.”
In the interview, Lamola added that the decrease in the numbers of inmates will help to curb the spread of COVID-19.
Rapid increase of infections in prisons
“There has been a rapid increase in the number of coronavirus patients in the country’s correctional facilities. There are currently 354 cases nationally with the highest number of positive cases in the Eastern Cape. KwaZulu-Natal and some of the other provinces only have one positive case respectively.
“I commend everyone, especially the frontline workers inside correctional facilities who are dedicated in helping combat the spread of the coronavirus,”
Busy time ahead for parole boards
Lamola also explained that they will not be releasing prisoners who have not appeared before the various parole boards first.
“Due to this emergency, the parole boards will have to operate every day. We need to assess where the prisoners will reside; who they will be residing with and in what type of community; how they will survive and what type of community projects they will take part in. There are a lot of things that the boards will have to check first.”
Every city has their own parole board that will fast-track the process of the prisoners’ release. For example, Durban has the Durban Management Area, Pietermaritzburg has the PMB Management Area and the Western Cape also has a number of parole boards in its many cities.”
The justice minister reiterated that the Western Cape province will not be prioritised despite being the hotspot for criminal activities in the country.