New parole framework
Pretoria - A newly-established parole board, consisting of medical practitioners, has been mandated to independently review all applications for medical parole, the department of correctional services said on Sunday.
It would be chaired by Dr Victor Ramathesele and would "look into all seriously and terminally ill inmates who had requested release on medical grounds", said Correctional Services Minister Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula.
The Correctional Matters Amendment Act required a doctor to thoroughly motivate why a prisoner should be considered for medical parole.
This was then submitted to the "independent panel of medical practitioners for approval", after which the parole board would make an informed decision.
The new framework comes into effect on March 1.
Nqakula was speaking at a justice, crime prevention and security cluster briefing on strategic and tactical interventions developed to improve public safety, in line with President Jacob Zuma's commitment in his state of the nation address.
She said that under the new framework, a member of the public, the concerned inmate or a family member could initiate the process of seeking medical parole.
"The [former national police commissioner] Jackie Selebi case was a talking point in the media. That request, made by a group [calling itself "Friends of Jackie Selebi"], could not be accepted under the current legislation.
"I responded to that application in terms of current law. That application can be made under a new framework in March," she said.
Selebi was sentenced to 15 years' imprisonment for corruption after accepting payments from convicted drug trafficker Glenn Agliotti, but appealed the conviction.
He had to be taken to hospital when he saw on television that his appeal had been denied.
Current legislation dictates that only a doctor treating an offender can recommend medical parole, which is why the "Friends of Jackie Selebi" application was thrown out.
"We should not trivialise this matter of parole. We have people who are critically ill in our centres," said Nqakula.
"I know that when people hear about new parole provisions they think we are opening floodgates and letting people walk out. We are talking about extremely sick people here," she said.
"There will be people, with immediate effect, who will have to be considered for parole. The new framework doesn't mean when you are HIV positive and your CD4 count is low or if you have [tuberculosis] TB you will be let out. We give antiretroviral drugs and the CD4 picks up."
Nqakula said her department would also implement the use of electronic monitoring on parolees and probationers.
"This project involves 150 parolees, including 70 convicts on life sentences who are on parole.
"The aim here is to deal with overcrowding at correctional facilities and to minimise the possibility of violation of set parole conditions," she said.
There would also be new provisions for the parolees who will be monitored electronically.
"We would want to allow them to go out and look for employment and work then come home. We are able to monitor, on our system, their movements and we will also know if they are leaving the physical area we allowed them," she said.
The pilot project would cost R6m this year, but the minister said she did not know the costs of future projects.