OPINION: Are we ready for Pistorius to be released on parole?
In just over two week's time, Oscar Pistorius will be released from incarceration at the Kgosi Mampuru II prison in Pretoria. He will be driven to his uncle's sprawling face-brick mansion in Waterkloof where he will serve out the remainder of his five-year sentence. He would have spent just ten months behind bars, that's one sixth of the prison term imposed by Judge Thokozile Masipa.
Are we as South Africa, ready for Oscar Pistorius to be released on parole?
We will have to be ready, because it is how the rule of law works here and the decision to release him is perfectly above board.
There is no doubt that the re-emergence of Pistorius into society and into the news headlines will spark fiery outrage from many quarters. We can expect social media to light up with condemnation and for many to spew vitriol, with the underlying theme being that Pistorius is receiving beneficial treatment because of his celebrity, money and fame. He's the Blade Runner, so surely he is not being treated 'normally' like the 'regular convict' - we've heard it all before.
However, the decision of the Parole Board should really not come as a shock to anyone as it was always going to happen.
According to the piece of legislation governing Pistorius's incarceration, Section 276(1)i of the Criminal Procedure Act, the Commissioner of Correctional Services and the Parole Board can place a prisoner under correctional supervision after they have served one-sixth of a sentence. The individual would have had to have shown good behaviour in prison, attended courses such as anger management in Pistorius's case and given an indication that they could be rehabilitated.
The victim's family would also have been consulted, and in this instance, the Steenkamps were present at the meeting of the Parole Board and apparently indicated that they had forgiven Reeva's killer. Therefore, there was no reason for prison officials not to follow standard procedure and release Pistorius one-sixth of the way through his sentence.
We would also do well to remember that the athlete is not going to be a 'free man' and will still be serving the remainder of his term under correctional supervision. The details and conditions of his parole have not yet been made public, but it is likely that he will not be allowed to leave home, except for work and church, he will have to do community service, he will have to report to a police station regularly and he will have a parole officer who will ensure that he abides by these conditions. If he breaks any of these terms, he will be locked up again.
There is certainly an argument against the concept of parole, and one just needs to look at the example of former bouncer and 'bad boy' Gary Beuthin to make this case. With a string of convictions and jail time over the past two decades, Beuthin was released on parole in 2013 having served half of a six-year sentence for assault. He was rearrested in January this year for violating his parole conditions and then re-released in June, despite the Parole Board being warned by Beuthin's victims that he had not been rehabilitated and he would offend again. It wasn't surprising when he was indeed rearrested just a month later, in possession of an unlicenced firearm and drugs.
But the correctional services department says Beuthin is part of a small segment of parolees and probationers who violated their conditions of placement over the past few years and overall compliance continues to improve.
According to official statistics, compliance with the conditions placed on 71,623 probationers and parolees reached unprecedented levels of 98% and 95.92% for parolees and probationers respectively over the last two years. Of their caseload of 71,623, 51 634 are parolees while 18,545 are probationers. Parolees are those given normal sentences and, in terms of the Correctional Services Act, become eligible for parole consideration and placement after serving a 50% mandatory incarceration period. Pistorius would fall into the probationers category - those sentenced by courts directly to serve community corrections or non-custodial sentences, or are given a short stint in custody such as one-sixth of the sentences before the conversion of their sentences to correctional supervision.
The department says the positive results achieved over the past few years can be attributed to a number of interventions and officials continue to tighten the supervision of parolees and probationers.
It also costs government, and by implication the taxpayer, less to release prisoners and allow them to do correctional supervision instead. This is particularly true in the case of wealthy convicts such as Pistorius. According to the department of correctional services' website, the average daily cost for incarcerating a prisoner is about R329.20 which translates to close to R10,000 a month.
So academically, legally and logically, it makes sense for Pistorius to be released on parole. But, that may not mean that we as society are emotionally ready for it. If there is one thing we have learnt from this case, it is that emotion and personal opinion clouds logic and the law. Come 21 August, you can expect the public to lose any sense of rational thought and slot comfortably into the default position of anger and outrage. This case tends to have that effect on us.
Mandy Wiener is a freelance journalist and author working for Eyewitness News . Follow her on Twitter: @mandywiener