South Africa’s President Cyril Ramaphosa on Friday authorized the placement on parole of selected categories of offenders to curb the spread of the novel coronavirus in correctional facilities.
“The decision taken by the President to combat the spread of COVID-19 in correctional centres could relieve our correctional services facilities of just under 19,000 inmates out of a population of 155,000,” the presidency said in a statement.
The presidency said the parole dispensation will apply to only low-risk inmates who have passed their minimum detention period or will approach this period in the coming five years.
“This dispensation excludes inmates sentenced to life imprisonment or serving terms for specified other serious crimes, including sexual offences, murder and attempted murder, gender based violence and child abuse,’’ the statement said.
The presidency said inmates who qualify will be placed on parole instead of having their sentences remitted.
“They will continue to serve their sentence under Community Corrections until they reach their respective sentence expiry dates,” it added.
According to the statement, the president took the decision to grant the prisoners parole in response to a call by the United Nations to all countries to reduce prison populations so that social distancing and self-isolation conditions can be observed during this period.
Offenders who violate their parole conditions may be arrested and ultimately incarcerated, it said.
Many countries in the world including South Africa have witnessed increasing outbreaks of COVID-19 in correctional facilities infecting both offenders and prison officials.
South Africa has one of the highest cases of confirmed COVID-19 cases on the continent with 8,232 cases and 161 deaths.
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