Justice and Correctional Services Minister Ronald Lamola says COVID-19 will severely impact his department’s ability to deliver on its mandate. He’s expecting 7% of his budget or at least R1.9 billion to be cut as a result of re-prioritisation by the Finance Minister next month.
“It’s a huge amount of money. Indications are that Justice to not be less than R1.5 billion or Correction Services also it would not be less than R1.5 billion, it will be more than that. So, there will be budget cuts also for other ones in these entities within our space. We have not yet had a plan of how we are going to deal with budget cuts because it has not yet been confirmed exactly how much,” Lamola said while briefing Parliament’s Portfolio Committee on Justice and Correctional Services on their department’s plans for the year.
The Justice and Correctional Services Minister also touched on the planned release of petty crime convicts as part of efforts to slow the spread of COVID-19.
He says the vast majority of prisoners qualifying for COVID-19 parole were in any event due to be released in the next two years or less. Over 14 000 of the 19 000 prisoners fall in this category.
In the video below, Lamola speaks about the early release of prisoners:
Lamola reiterated that congestion in prisons and the risks of prisoners being infected with COVID-19 were the main reasons for granting parole to low-risk prisoners.
“Those that are sentenced for less than two years they don’t stay long in our facilities because studies have shown that you would really not be able to do real rehabilitation in that period.”
As the number of infected prisoners continues to rise, the department is devising plans to curb the spread.
“This is working because some of them have recovered. When we record recoveries from time to time – 40 of them have already recovered,” says Minister Lamola.
Below is an infographic on the number of infections in SA prisons: