[imagesource: Oupa Mokoena / African News Agency]
Since the lockdown was instituted in South Africa, government has made some controversial decisions in their efforts to stem the spread of COVID-19.
Apart from the tobacco and alcohol ban, the former of which has led to court proceedings, the plan to release 19 000 inmates in an attempt to ease overcrowding in prisons has citizens fired up.
Before we take a closer look at Justice Minister Ronald Lamola’s reasons for the early parole of thousands of inmates, News24 broke down the rates of infection in correctional facilities.
Note that these stats were released late yesterday evening, and may have changed since then.
As we’ve seen from other countries, overcrowded prisons have the potential to become rife breeding grounds for the virus, as prisoners cannot easily physical distance themselves from one another.
This is one of the reasons outlined by Lamola for the decision to release prisoners put forth in his press briefing on Friday afternoon, reports TimesLIVE.
He emphasised that the decision was not taken lightly and came about after careful consideration.
“This is not something the department of correctional services can do with ease, simply because the interest of justice and society demand the opposite from us. Correctional services has adopted an approach in implementing its Covid-19 disaster management response strategy across all its centres and offices.”
His main argument is that allowing the virus to take hold in prisons would counteract efforts to eradicate it in the rest of the country.
Per News24, prisoners have to meet certain criteria to qualify for early parole. Only those who have committed petty crimes will be taken into consideration.
Prisoners who do not meet the requirements include:
- Inmates serving life imprisonment for crimes related to gender-based violence and sexual offences; child abuse; murder, attempted sabotage and terrorism.
- Those declared dangerous in line with the Criminal Procedure Act, and those certified mentally ill and detained in line with the Mental Health Care Act.
- Offenders with further charges that have not received bail or could not pay it.
- Inmates who escaped prison or absconded and were still at large as of the date of pronouncement.
- Inmates who are out on bail pending appeals.
- Those who committed violations under the Domestic Violence Act.
- Those detained for armed robbery or robbery with aggravating circumstances.
- Any other crime linked the above mentioned crimes, for example, house breaking with intent to steal or rape.
- Any attempt, soliciting, inciting, or conspiracy to commit the above crimes.
The reaction to this plan has been mixed. According to EWN, the South African Prisoners Organisation for Human Rights says that 19 000 isn’t enough, and is pushing government to consider the release of up to 40 000 inmates.
Meanwhile, the DA has criticised the move, stating that it could “lead to a greater humanitarian crisis than the one the government was trying to avoid”.
As things stand, President Ramaphosa has approved the decision.
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