Justice Minister Ronald Lamola says correctional facilities must not only be seen as buildings to keep offenders away from society, but also as correctional centres that rehabilitate offenders in order to reintegrate them back into their communities.
Lamola made these remarks following the announcement by President Cyril Ramaphosa during the Day of Reconciliation Commemoration in Bergville, KwaZulu-Natal, on Monday.
The President announced a decision to remit the sentence expiry dates of specific categories of sentenced offenders, probationers and parolees across all correction facilities in the country.
Remission of sentence is a power vested on the President by the constitution and the correctional services act to cut a sentence short. It also means it fast tracks the dates upon which an inmate will be placed on parole, subject to meeting a set criteria.
“The decision taken by the President is in-line with established international practice and informed by powers given to him by section 84 (2)(j) of the Constitution, which provides that the President is responsible for pardoning or reprieving offenders and remitting any fines, penalties or forfeitures,” said the Minister.
The process will include all Justice, Crime Prevention and Security (JCPS) Cluster Departments, including the South African Police Service (SAPS) and the Department of Home Affairs (DHA) who will be verifying the details of every eligible offender.
It is estimated that the special remission process will run from the date of pronouncement by the President, in a phased approach, until successful completion in order to ensure the smooth reintegration of offenders into society.
The process will commence with the release of women, children, youth and people with disabilities and will then move on to other categories of offenders.
Attendance of a pre-release programme by offenders will also be a pre-requisite before any release.
Furthermore, sentenced offenders who may not have participated in other relevant programmes will be prioritized for such pre-release programmes before being considered for release.
The Risk and Relapse Probability Report is one of the key tools that is going to be utilized to assess and mitigate any risk associated with reoffending.
A JCPS Cluster Technical Task Team has been established to focus, amongst others, on looking at the list of offenders who are foreign nationals that are to be considered for remission.
“This Technical Task Team will manage the review of the citizenship status granted to foreign nationals to be done by the Department of Home Affairs as well as verification of fingerprints and DNA analysis (to be done by the SAPS),” said the Minister.
The 2019 special remissions project is targeting approximately:
- 84.7% of probationers, already in communities and not in correctional facilities (11 556 out of the total probationers of 13 644);
- 48.98% of parolees, already in communities and not in correctional facilities (24 833 out of the total parolees of 50 700);
- 51.30% of the total community corrections population, already in communities and not in correctional facilities (36 389 out of the community corrections population of 70 930);
- 8.99% of South Africa’s total inmate population in correctional centers (14 647 out of the inmate population of 163 015); and
- Less than one third (21.81 %) of South Africa’s total offender population (51,036 out of the offender population of 233 945).
The Minister emphasised that government has taken a decision to exclude certain types of offences from the special remission process.
“As a responsive government, we have deliberately excluded these types of offences from the special remission process, because we understand the sensitivity they are carrying in our society,” he said.
This special remission of sentence will not be applicable to any sentenced offender, probationer, parolee or day parolee who is serving for:
- Sexual offences
- Murder and attempted murder
- Armed robbery
- Certified as mentally ill and is detained in accordance with the Mental Health, 2002 (Act 17 of 2002);
- Sedition, High treason, sabotage and terrorism;
- Offenders declared as dangerous by the court in terms of Section 286 A of the Criminal Procedure Act, 51 of 1977;
- Sentenced to life imprisonment;
- Any escaped/absconded offender who evaded the justice system after being released on bail pending appeal and was still at large on 16 December 2019.
- Violations under the Domestic Violence Act, 1998 (Act No 116 of 1998); and
- Child abuse.