The move to release selected categories offenders as a measure to combat the spread of COVID-19 in prisons has been met with mixed reactions.
In a statement on Friday, President Cyril Ramaphosa announced that selected categories of offenders will be released on parole in line with the World Health Organisation’s (WHO) call for countries to reduce prison populations to curb the spread of COVID-19 at correctional facilities.
The country’s correctional facilities are overcrowded, with the population of 155 000 inmates. About 19 000 prisoners will be released.
Though the decision is welcomed by some, others fear that this decision will lead to the increase of criminal activities. “In prison they are crowded I think some of them because we don’t know what could happen in prison so should be released depending on their cases.”
“I think the elderly people because they are suffering from chronic diseases and it is easy for them to get diseases. So I was so happy when I heard that they are going to be released.”
“I don’t think they should be released because some of them will continue doing crimes; some killing people so they are fine where they are.”
In the video below, POPCRU welcomes the President’s decision on parole:
The President of the South African Prisoners Unemployed Social Movement, Tokelo Africa, believes government has made a right decision.
“We have people who are inside incarcerated whereby we feel that those people must be released because we feel that they are over 60 years of age and they qualify in terms of the special parole of COVID-19 that we are still emphasising that they must be released because COVID-19 has its own regulations. It is hectic and if we don’t take it serious people will die,” says Africa.
Correctional Services Spokesperson, Singabakho Nxumalo, says parole conditions will apply to all qualifying inmates.
“The announcement by the President will definitely assist us wherein there`s going to be a placement on parole for a number of qualifying low risk qualifying inmates. Compliance with parole conditions will remain supreme until the entire sentence is served by those qualifying under these section,” says Nxumalo.
However, the DA says the release of sentenced offenders could lead to an even greater humanitarian crisis than what is being avoided.
In the video below, Justice and Correctional Services Minister Ronald Lamola addresses the media on this:
Below is a graphic on COVID-19 cases in South African prisons: