Applications from lifers seeking to be released increasing‚ says correctional services minister

The correctional services department is facing increased demands from inmates serving life in prison to be released, writes Bongani Nkosi.

Minister Michael Masutha told journalists in Pretoria on Thursday the department was being litigated against at least 10 times a week in courts by lifers claiming they now qualified for parole.

“The number of motion applications from lifers has been increasing over the years. We receive these motions almost on daily basis‚” said Masutha.

The trend seemed to be that once lifers served the minimum of 25 years in prison‚ they believed they were automatically eligible for release.

But the department was standing its ground that set requirements still needed to be met before an inmate could be considered for parole.

Masutha said he was now appealing against a recent court ruling that posed problems for the parole system.

The ruling‚ delivered at the Durban High Court last month‚ favoured a prisoner named Erwin Christmas and eight others. Christmas‚ a former accountant‚ was sentenced to life behind bars in 2002 for murdering Pinetown Magistrate Anthony Hofert.

Masutha said he interpreted the ruling to mean that “offenders serving life may be considered for parole once they reached their minimum detention period in the absence of reports by social workers‚ psychologist sentencing remarks …”.

“I have … applied for leave to appeal this judgment as it could have a devastating effect on the parole system in South Africa‚” Masutha said.

He said a lot of things were considered before granting a prisoner parole. These included the views of the victims‚ rehabilitation of the offender and potential threat one posed to society.

“These are all properly weighed before any decision can be undertaken to either release or deny parole to an offender.”

Masutha added they were expecting more litigation from this cohort of prisoners. This was because there was a backlog in dealing with the numbers of parole applications.

He has received 1‚124 such parole applications since 2014‚ granting only 291.

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