About 19 000 low-risk inmates who have passed their minimum detention period will be released, President Cyril Ramaphosa announced on Friday.The placement on parole will be the decision of the parole boards and it will be done in phases. The most vulnerable, such as those with underlying health problems, the elderly (above 60 years old) and woman offenders with infants, will be prioritised.The move is a measure to combat the spread of Covid-19 in jails, which are considered high-risk areas for infection.Ramaphosa’s decision is in response to a call by the United Nations to all countries to reduce prison populations so that social distancing and self-isolation conditions can be observed.Following the announcement, Justice Minister Ronald Lamola said there are 172 confirmed Covid-19 cases at correctional services facilities in the country.However, there are none in Pietermaritzburg and KZN.He said that in December last year, 14 647 inmates were released by the president after they were given special remission of sentences. Ninety nine percent have not violated their parole conditions and only 50 re-offended, he added.While the special remission reduced overcrowding at the correctional facilities, there is still overcrowding. “We have a total of 157 208 inmates, whereas our accommodation capacity is 118 572. This number includes 56 536 inmates who are in remand detention. This means our accommodation capacity is exceeded by 38 636 inmates,” he said.Those that won’t be considered for parole are inmates serving sentences for sexual offences, child abuse, murder, attempted murder, armed robbery, high treason, sabotage and terrorism. Offenders declared as dangerous by the court, those sentenced to life imprisonment, violations under the Domestic Violence Act and any escaped/absconded inmate who evaded the justice system after being released on bail and were still at large on December 16, will not be considered.