Prisoners' return to crime a worry: Deputy Minister

By Drum Digital
17 July 2012

It is worrying that some prisoners released under a special remission of sentence return to crime, Correctional Services Deputy Minister Ngoako Ramathlodi said on Friday.

"Although the rate of re-offending among the offenders released can be considered low, the department condemns every single act of criminality in the strongest possible way," he said at the release the final batch of offenders at the Pretoria Central Prison.

"One re-offender is one too many."

The release of prisoners started three days after President Jacob Zuma announced a special remission of sentences at a Freedom Day rally on April 27.

A total of 43,789 offenders qualified for early release from the country's 241 prisons.

Ramatlhodi said that by June 29, 90 of them had been re-admitted, and of these, 20 had been sentenced. The longest term imposed was three years.

Of the remaining 70, two paid bail, one committed suicide, and 49 were being held awaiting trial. Another 18 had not returned to prison from the courts.

He rejected suggestions that the release was inspired by prison overcrowding.

"Overcrowding was not a motivating factor in the decision by the president to grant the remission," he said.

"The department, however, welcomes the reduced overcrowding rate brought about by this special remission."

In announcing the special remission of sentences, Zuma said it was in keeping with the spirit of the celebration of the country's 18 years of freedom and in line with international practice.

He said there would be a six months blanket special remission of sentence for all sentenced offenders, probationers, and parolees.

An additional 12 months special remission would be made for all sentenced inmates, probationers, and parolees, excluding those sentenced for aggressive, sexual, firearms, and drug-related offences, and people declared dangerous criminals.

There was a remission of sentences when former president Nelson Mandela was inaugurated on May 10, 1994; on the first Freedom Day on April 27, 1995; on Mandela's 80th birthday on July 18, 1998; and to mark the first year of former president Thabo Mbeki's second term in office on May 30, 2005.

In May, when prisoners were released in the Free State and Northern Cape, correctional services deputy regional commissioner Grace Molatedi told the Volksblad that only 0.25 percent of the offenders released in 2005 had transgressed again.

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