Minister to consider 385 parole applications

Sunday, April 3, 2011

Pretoria - Correctional Services Minister Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula will immediately begin considering placing on parole the 385 prisoners who were sentenced to life before the introduction of the 20 year minimum detention in 1994.

This follows clarification from the Constitutional Court on an order it handed down in September 2010.

Earlier this year, the minister approached the court for clarification on the order, in particular, on whether the National Council on Correctional Services (NCSS) still had a role to fulfil in the processing of lifers sentenced before 1 March 1994. 

After studying the Constitutional Court judgment, NCCS raised the matter of its role as an advisory body to the minister in processing the parole applications of offenders who were serving life sentences and were affected by the court's decision.

According to the Department of Correctional Services, the NCSS interpreted the judgment to mean that the minister should decide on the parole applications of this group of offenders without the advisory body's assistance, since the court's instruction did not mention the NCCS directly.

"On 31 March 2011, the Constitutional Court handed down judgment and indicated that its main judgment of 30 September 2010 was clear in as far as there can be no doubt that it applies only to those inmates sentenced to life before the introduction of the 20 year minimum detention period on 1 March 1994.

"Therefore, the court held that the NCCS is excluded from the process of parole consideration of inmates sentenced before 1 March 1994," the department said. 

Mapisa-Nqakula has welcomed the clarity provided by the court and said she would immediately begin considering parole for the 385 affected inmates.

"The minister will also be processing all the lifers that have been referred back by the NCCS over the last couple of years where further profiles have been requested. The NCCS will therefore not deal with the consideration of lifers for placement on parole until at least 2014," the department added.

In order to carry out the court's decision, additional administrative capacity in the minister's office has been created to process these parole applications quickly.

From 4 April, Mapisa-Nqakula will start her decision making process on 95 parole applications already processed and ready to be adjudicated on. 

"The minister has instructed that all efforts be made by the department to contact all victims of crime perpetrated by the remaining applicants in line with the spirit of the White Paper on Corrections," the department added.

She is expected to announce her decision on the first 95 parole applications by 8 April. The minister intends concluding her considerations on the parole applications all of 385 inmates by 15 May 2011.

"The Ministry of Correctional Services wishes to emphasise to both applicants and the South African public that being considered for parole does not automatically mean parole will be granted, as parole is a privilege dependent on specific and certain qualifying criteria and not a right," the department added. - BuaNews

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