Lamola: Review of prison parole system is imminent

2020-03-04 16:43
The government is having a look at the parole system.

The government is having a look at the parole system.

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Minister of Justice, Ronald Lamola, has admitted that parole boards are given “flawed” data when needing to consider whether a prisoner should be eligible for parole. 

Lamola said on Wednesday that improving data on whether a prisoner would re-offend if released could be the key to improving the country’s parole policy. 

Lamola had convened an urgent two-day meeting with high-ranking officials in his department as well as the province's correctional service parole boards to address what it sees as systemic flaws in the parole system.

"There are flaws in terms of the data that we put in front of the parole boards. The data needs to be as comprehensive as possible when the board takes a decision," Lamola said.

"The clearest thing we all need to attend to as a matter of urgency … is the management of data."

The discussion around parole has been reignited after the recent deaths of eight-year-old Tazne van Wyk outside Worcester and eight-year-old Reagan Gertse in separate incidents, when it emerged that their alleged killers were allegedly out on parole during the incidents. 

Officials have reviewed parole granted in the Western Cape in the last financial year to evaluate whether there had been any failure to comply with the processes and procedures of the Correctional Services Act.

For example, child killers should be declared dangerous criminals and handed an indefinite sentence as allowed by the Act, Lamola said.

"It is high time we send a clear message that re-offending comes at a severe cost to one's liberty,” he said, adding that criminologists and psychiatrists needed to play a role in the parole process. 

"I am pleased to hear that a team of this nature has been set up to profile all gender-based violence and femicide offender cases to ensure that these offenders are directed to a specific type of sentence plan."

Lamola said, however, that the parole system was "flawed, but not broken".

Relooked, revamped

Last week, Lamola together with President Cyril Ramaphosa met with the parents of murdered Tazne, whose body was found dead in a stormwater drain outside Worcester, not far from her home in Connaught Estate.

Moyhdian Pangarker, who stands accused of her murder, has a criminal record stretching back to the 1980s. He had allegedly absconded from parole a year ago. 

He was cornered in Cradock after being on the run for almost two weeks after being identified as a person of interest in her kidnapping. After being transported back to Cape Town from the Eastern Cape town, Pangarker led police to Tazne's decomposing body.

After meeting with her parents, Terence and Carmen, Ramaphosa apologised to Connaught Estate residents, who were angry after hearing allegations that Pangarker had been released on parole.

Ramaphosa, along with Lamola, told residents that the parole system would be relooked and revamped so that a similar situation does not happen.

READ | Another parolee arrested for murdering young child

On Tuesday, convicted rapist and parolee Jakobus Petoors, 58, came under attack in the Tulbagh Magistrate's Court, where he appeared for the abduction, rape and murder of eight-year-old Reagan Gertse.

His parole was revoked following his arrest for Reagan's murder on Sunday - the same day he went missing.

The boy’s body was found on a riverbank.

Irate residents attempted to assault him in the dock, resulting in the police and prison warders repeatedly returning the accused to the holding cells for his safety.

Parole boards must listen to public

The case against him was eventually postponed in absentia.

"Now, more than ever, we need robust, transparent and consistent practices for managing consequences of non-compliance across the board," Lamola said.

"Parole boards across the country must be sensitive to the public outcry on gender-based violence and crime in general.

"The actions of the parole boards must enhance the administration of justice in general. We have the tools to give effect to the president's directive to ensure that the [alleged] murderers of Tazne and Reagan never walk in our communities again."

Lamola said a discussion document had been compiled to deal with the review of the parole policy.

Read more on:    cyril ramaphosa  |  ronald lamola  |  courts
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