Derby-Lewis: How does medical parole work?

Prison bars from Shutterstock
Prison bars from Shutterstock

Seventy nine year old Clive Derby-Lewis is serving a life sentence for his role in the assassination of South African Communist Party (SACP) leader Chris Hani in April 1993.

Hani was shot in the driveway of his home by Polish immigrant Janusz Walus and Derby-Lewis was accused of lending him the gun.

It was a fragile period in the history of South Africa and the killing gave rise to riots with widespread fears that the country was teetering on the brink of a civil war.

Derby-Lewis was sentenced to death but this was commuted to a life sentence after capital punishment was abolished.

The medical parole board has recommended on four occasions that Derby-Lewis be released from custody as he is suffering from lung cancer.  On Friday, Justice Minister Michael Masutha announced that Derby-Lewis's application was denied.

Derby-Lewis was denied medical parole because he only had stage three B cancer, not stage four as stipulated in legislation, had not shown remorse, and as there was something suspicious about his medical records.

"There is nothing to suggest that Mr Derby-Lewis's condition is such that he is rendered physically incapacitated... so as to severely limit daily activity," Masutha said, according to Sapa.

Section 79 of the Correctional Services Act makes provision for possible placement on medical parole.

When can medical parole be considered

As from 1 March 2012, medical parole has been expanded to also include cases where an offender is suffering from a terminal disease or condition or if an offender is rendered physically incapacitated as a result of injury, disease or illness so as to severely limit daily activity or inmate self care.

No minimum period has to be served

The decision for placement on medical parole can only be taken if medical parole has been recommended by of the Medical Advisory Board. [Section 79(3)(a)] This is applicable to all sentenced offenders irrespective of the date of sentence.

In the normal course of events, a medical practitioner will identify offenders who might qualify for possible medical parole.

An offender or family may also apply for medical parole but any such application must be recommended by a medical practitioner before it will be submitted to a decision maker.

The medical practitioner will do a thorough assessment of an offender’s medical condition and if in his opinion the physical of medical condition warrants consideration of medical parole, such an application will be submitted to a Medical Advisory Board which was constituted by the Minister. Only after the Medical Advisory Board has recommended medical parole, the application will be submitted to the Case Management Committee who will then make a recommendation to the relevant decision maker.

If it is granted

Should medical parole be approved, the offender will be placed into the system of Community Corrections subject to monitoring by officials of the DCS and subject to specific set conditions.

Can it be revoked?

Medical Parole can only be revoked if an offender does not comply with the placement conditions. Improved medical health will not be a ground to cancel medical parole.

Also read:

Depression behind SA bars
What it's like in a South African prison
Who’s on trial, Oscar or SA's prisons?

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