Summit discusses parole boards' independence

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Johannesburg - The independence of parole boards has come under scrutiny at a two-day Correctional Services Summit.

The summit is aimed at looking into the effectiveness and efficient functioning of the parole boards as originally intended.

Correctional Services Minister Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula revealed at the start of the summit on Wednesday that the issue of independence of parole boards was constantly being raised.

"What exactly is our understanding of this independence? Is it structural independence; is it independence of decision-making processes, is it a combination of both?" the minister questioned.

Mapisa-Nqakula said for authorities to best ensure the effectiveness of parole, they must have a deep appreciation of the society they function in.

"I was quite disturbed when an editorial in the Business Day of Friday 11 September insinuated that the parole function effectively undermines the judiciary in that it reverses sentencing decisions made by the judiciary. Clearly there is a lot of educating that the criminal justice cluster needs to do," she said.

The minister also wants the summit to debate the possible role of community participation in granting of paroles to offenders.

"The matter of community participation is core to the legitimacy of the parole boards and I would like us to reflect with seriousness on this aspect," said Mapisa-Nqakula.

At the end of the summit, delegates are also expected to come up with proposals to tackle reported backlogs in dealing with parole applications.

"I am sure that as we speak to the matter of the backlogs - whether these backlogs are real or not- we will inevitably look at the value chain of the parole process," said Mapisa-Nqakula.

The process should begin with the proper functioning of case managers and the case management committees.

"Our processes must effectively deal with the need for quality and quantity of the system."