Cabinet assures public on remission of sentences

Friday, May 4, 2012

Pretoria - Cabinet has once again reassured the public that all steps in line with the expectation of the Constitution have been taken to ensure that these remission of sentences do not result in unintended consequences.

This comes after the announcement by President Jacob Zuma on Freedom Day that inmates are set to benefit from special remissions of sentence. It is projected that approximately 14 651 sentenced inmates will be released conditionally or unconditionally in terms of this process, as well as an approximate 20 855 probationers and parolees.

This is in a bid to reduce the level of overcrowding in Correctional Centres from 34% to approximately 20%.

On Friday, Minister in the Presidency, Collins Chabane said Cabinet had noted with appreciation the detailed briefing given by the Correctional Services Minister, Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula following the Presidential announcement on Freedom Day regarding the remission of sentences.

The special remissions will see all sentenced inmates, probationers and parolees granted a six months remission of sentence and an additional 12 months for sentenced inmates, probationers and parolees, excluding those who have been sentenced for aggressive, sexual, firearm and drug related offences.

Remission will exclude all escapees and absconders who are still at large.

This special remission of sentence will not be applicable to any offender, probationer, day parolee or parolee who:
- Is certified as mentally ill and is detained in accordance with the Mental Health Act, 2002 (Act No 17 of 2002) on 27 April 2012: Provided that this special remission of sentence will be applicable as soon as such person is decertified and re-admitted to a correctional centre/ community corrections office
- Was declared a dangerous criminal in terms of section 286A of the Criminal Procedure Act, 51 of 1977
- Was still at large on 27 April 2012 after escaping or absconding. (It includes those persons who were ordered to report to serve their sentences of periodical imprisonment, but who failed to report)
- Already benefited from this special remission
- Were sentenced on or before 27 April 2012 who were released on bail pending appeal and report on or after 27 April 2012, where the Department of Justice and/ or the South African Police Services indicated in writing that they evaded the Justice system in respect of not reporting to serve the sentence
- Was sentenced to correctional supervision in terms of section 276(1)(h) of the Criminal Procedure Act, 1977 (Act No 51 of 1977) who are detained in a Correctional Centre for a period not exceeding 48 hours and who awaits referral to the court a quo due to violation of their conditions.

The reduced level of overcrowding in correctional centres will create a conducive environment for delivering effective rehabilitation programmes to offenders, Mapisa-Nqakula said at the briefing.

"The decision to exclude those who are declared to be dangerous criminals, is in line with our commitment that only those who have committed serious offences against society should serve custodial sentences in our centres," she said.

Mapisa-Nqakula said the completion of a compulsory pre- release assessment and the attendance of a compulsory pre-release programme is a pre-requisite before the conditional or unconditional release of offenders.

Any offender, who is allocated special remission and qualifies for immediate release, must be released within a ten week period. She said the release process must therefore be finalised on or before 6 July this year.

"Offenders who benefit from this special remission of sentence to the extent that they can immediately be released unconditionally, may only be released as from 14 May in controllable groups as per identified category, sentence group and timeframe," she said.

In South Africa, the granting of special remissions is governed by placing safety first and promoting shared responsibility for the correction of offending behaviour as well as for rehabilitation.

Since 1994, special remissions of sentence have been granted on various occasions - the Inauguration of the President Mandela on 10 May 1994, the celebration of the first anniversary of South Africa's democracy on 27 April 1995, in celebration of the 80th birthday of President Mandela on 18 July 1998. On 30 May 2005, a special remission recognized the strategic direction of the White Paper on Corrections and the commitment of the democratic government to provide offenders with rehabilitative interventions and a second chance to take their place as socially responsible citizens.

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