Call for transparency after thieves, abusers, burglars granted ‘special’ parole

Focus on parole transparency. file image

Focus on parole transparency. file image

Published May 5, 2024


Cape Town – The Department of Correctional Services (DCS) has been called on to be more transparent about the profile of prisoners granted parole, after it recently came to light they set free thousands of offenders, many of whom were imprisoned for house breaking, theft, assault and drug-related crimes.

Last month it was revealed – through Western Cape police oversight and community safety – that 3 159 prisoners were granted “special remission” parole.

The DCS has said the special remission did not include prisoners in jail for serious and violent crimes such as murder and attempted murder.

Western Cape DCS spokesperson Candice van Reenen said the over 3 000 prisoners released on special remission were involved in various types of crime, but these did not include sexual offences, murder and attempted murder, sedition, high treason, sabotage, terrorism and offenders declared to be dangerous criminals in terms of the Criminal Procedure Act.

“The types of crime committed by parolees re-arrested, following their benefit from the special remission 2023, include house breaking and theft, assault, drug-related crimes, traffic offences, possession of stolen goods and family violence.

“However, it must also be noted that although the special remission parolee may have been re-arrested, they must still stand trial to determine whether they are guilty of the newly-registered matter or not. DCS continues to work with all stakeholders to ensure that all people in South Africa are and feel safe.”

Police oversight and community safety revealed that of those released, 760 were granted parole between August and November as a result of the “Special Remission of Sentence”.

Of these parolees, about half (383) are reporting to SAPS stations, where Law Enforcement Advancement Plan (LEAP) officers are deployed.

They further said it had been reported by the police that by November 20 last year, 113 parolees had re-offended, and been rearrested. Among others, they were arrested for assault, theft, attempted murder, and possession of a firearm and possession of a dangerous weapon.

Police Oversight and Community Safety MEC Reagen Allen called on the DCS to be more transparent, and said his office could not comment but would engage with role-players.

“SAPS and DCS should also inform the communities where these parolees have been released (about) who they are (and) the crimes they have committed, while encouraging [the community] to report any transgressions,” he said.

Prison rights activist Golden Miles Bhudu of the SA Prisoners Association for Human Rights said more work had to be done when it came to rehabilitation.

“Some programmes post-1994 attempt to break the cycle by providing prisoners with education, training and skills development, so one gets the famous word rehabilitation, that would turn them into responsible and productive and law-abiding citizens, helping to find jobs.

“There was money set aside for education, etc. What happened? Unskilled prisoners are sent into the market. Their only alternative is the temptation of drugs, dealing in drugs, bank robberies, GBV, cash-in-transit (robberies), hacking and fraud.

“We have been calling on DCS since (former correctional services minister Ngconde) Balfour’s time, and now (current Minister Ronald) Lamola, and labour department and social development, to establish corporates for prisoners who want to start their own companies, so they can be assisted.

“With the government and private sector, they could manufacture wooden and steel furniture, for example, for schools or government departments, making shoes, crafts and clothing.

“Jobs such as bread making, or food production, or carpentry, or motor mechanics, hairdressing or plumbing should be offered to ex-offenders.”