35 000 offenders could be released
Johannesburg - More than 35 000 offenders could be released, depending on an assessment, after President Jacob Zuma announced a special remission of sentence, Police Minister Nathi Mthethwa said on Saturday.
"The special remission...will see all sentenced inmates, probationers and parolees granted a six month remission of sentence...and an additional 12 months," he told a media briefing in Pretoria.
"This will reduce the level of overcrowding in correctional centres from 34% to approximately 20%."
It was estimated that about 20 855 probationers and parolees, and 14 651 sentenced inmates would be released "conditionally or unconditionally" in terms of an assessment process.
"The completion of a compulsory pre-release assessment and the attendance of...the programme is a prerequisite before the conditional or unconditional release of offenders can take place," explained Mthethwa.
Offenders who qualify can only be released from May 14 this year in "controllable groups".
Zuma announced on Friday that his administration would grant a special remission of sentence to specific categories of sentenced offenders, probationers and parolees.
In South Africa the granting of special remissions is governed by placing safety first and promoting shared responsibility for the correction of offending behaviour and rehabilitation, Mthethwa said.
He said Zuma had ensured that the process would be a fair non-discriminatory and transparent one where certain categories of prisoners would be excluded from aspects of the proposed remission.
"Such exclusion is justified on the basis [of[ public interest and concern and the prevalence of serious offences, the integrity of the criminal justice system and the administration of justice," said Mthethwa.
Those sentenced for aggressive, sexual, firearm and drug related offences would not qualify for the special remission.
"Remission will exclude all escapees and absconders who are still at large," said the police minister.