Lamola: COVID-19 parole announcement part of govt's restorative justice plan

President Cyril Ramaphosa has authorised the release of just under 19,000 prisoners to contain the spread of the virus in correctional facilities.

FILE: Justice Minister Ronald Lamola at an inter-ministerial briefing on the coronavirus in Pretoria on 13 March 2020. Picture: Sethembiso Zulu/Eyewitness News

JOHANNESBURG - Justice Minister Ronald Lamola has provided details of the COVID-19 parole dispensation announced by President Cyril Ramaphosa, saying that this was one of government’s ways of rolling out the restorative justice system.

Ramaphosa has authorised the release of just under 19,000 prisoners to contain the spread of the virus in correctional facilities.

The provision excludes inmates sentenced to life imprisonment or serving terms for serious crimes, including sexual offences, murder, gender-based violence and child abuse.

Justice Minister Ronald Lamola: "We are inculcating a restorative justice system. The restorative justice system sees crime as an act against the victim and shifts the focus to repairing the harm that has been committed against the victim and the community. It believes that the offender also needs assistance and seeks to identify what needs to be changed to prevent further re-offending."

Lamola said that there were now 172 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in correctional centres across the country.

RELEASE OF PRISONERS TO HELP REDUCE RISK OF CONTRACTING COVID-19

Lamola said the decision to release almost 19,000 prisoners would help reduce over-crowing in Correctional Service facilities by almost 13%, reducing the risk of the spread of the coronavirus.

The minister said there were currently over 157,000 inmates in prisons with an accommodation capacity of 118,000.

This means capacity is exceeded by 38,000 inmates.

Lamola said this made prisoners more vulnerable to contracting COVID-19: “The virus spreads quicker in closed spaces. Another exacerbating factor is that some of the inmates already have compromised immune systems as a result of chronic conditions.”

The minister said those with underlying health problems, the elderly and women with infants would be prioritised.

For official information about COVID-19 from the Department of Health, please click here.