SUMMARY: Lamola explains how special parole will work

File: A Correctional Services officer with an offender. AFP/Michele Spatari

JOHANNESBURG - President Cyril Ramaphosa has authorised the release on parole of just under 19,000 prisoners as part of efforts to stop the spread of COVID-19 in prisons.

Justice and Correctional Services Minister Ronald Lamola briefed the country on some of the measures the department is taking to reduce the spread of infection in prisons and effect the parole system.

Lamola acknowledged that the special remission has reduced overcrowded conditions but said the state is still facing a high percentage of overcrowding.

WATCH: Lamola briefing on parole of low-risk prisoners

"We have a total of 157,208 inmates, whereas our accommodation capacity is 118,572. This number includes a total of 56,536 inmates who are in remand detention. This means our accommodation capacity is exceeded by 38.636 inmates," the minister said.

Lamola said placement on the special parole will be decided by parole boards and will only be eligible for low-risk offenders.

It will be done in phases and the most vulnerable, such as those with underlying health problems, inmates over 60 years old and women with infants will be prioritised.

READ: 8,232 COVID-19 infections, 161 deaths in SA

They will be considered on a case-by-case basis and those who qualify will be placed on parole after all the due processes including Victim-Offender Dialogues have been completed.

The process will include a comprehensive screening process for inmates including but not limited to, taking of their fingerprints and DNA samples by SAPS and soliciting inputs from departmental social workers and criminologists.

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