The granting of parole due to Covid-19 has led to a decrease of 16.26% in the country’s prison population after more than 10 000 prisoners were released on special parole, Justice and Correctional Services Minister Ronald Lamola said.
THE GRANTING of parole due to Covid-19 has led to a decrease of 16.26% in the country’s prison population after more than 10 000 prisoners were released on special parole dispensation to curb the spread of the pandemic, Justice and Correctional Services Minister Ronald Lamola said.
Lamola revealed this when he was responding to parliamentary questions from EFF MP Patrick Sindane, who asked how the department was dealing with overcrowding in prisons during lockdown to curb the spread of the Covid-19 pandemic.
Sindane had also enquired about the total number of prison officials and prisoners who were infected and succumbed to the virus.
In his response, Lamola said President Cyril Ramaphosa had authorised the consideration and placement on parole of certain categories of sentenced prisoners, who were or would have been incarcerated on April 20 subject to such conditions as may be approved by the correctional supervision and parole board.
The minister announced the special parole dispensation on May 8.
Lamola said approximately 19 0000 sentenced prisoners who committed non-violent crimes and were left with 60 months or less before the minimum detention period were to be released on parole.
“As at 20 August 2020, a total of 10 153 offenders have been released on special parole dispensation,” he said.
When the release of prisoners on special parole started on March 20 there were 155 069 prisoners, which translated into an occupancy level of 130.78 % and an overcrowding level of 30.78%,” Lamola said.
He said the prison population was 138 070, which translates into an occupancy level of 114.52% and an overcrowding level of 14.52% as at August 20.
“Since the commencement of the implementation of the 2020 Covid-19 special parole dispensation the department down managed overcrowding in correctional centres with an overall rate of 16.26% from 155 069 to 138 070,”
Lamola said the department was successfully dealing with overcrowding in correctional centres to curb the spread of Covid-19.
“The department has recommended that the courts should consider alternative sentencing as this will also assist with the management of Covid-19 in correctional services,” he added.
Meanwhile, there were a total of 7047 confirmed Covid-19 cases in prisons as of Sunday.
The department’s website showed that 4369 prison officials and 2678 prisoners tested positive.
The prisons recorded 8716 recoveries during the same period.
However, a total of 69 officials succumbed to Covid-19 and 52 prisoners had died as of Sunday.