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Parole: An opportunity to start afresh

Written by Noluthando Mkhize
Parole offers offenders a second chance to reintegrate into society and become law-abiding citizens.

This is the view of Acting National Commissioner for Correctional Services, Zach Modise.

Parole gives offenders a chance to rebuild trust within their communities and mend their ways.According to Modise, parole is an internationally accepted method that allows the conditional release of offenders from a correctional centre into the community before the end of their sentence.

He said in South Africa, parole is known as a placement option from a correctional centre into the system of community corrections.

“The offender serves the remainder of the sentence outside of a correctional centre based on specific conditions. This also gives the offender the opportunity to reintegrate in the community while under supervision,” he said. Parole also gives offenders an opportunity to mend their ways.

“This is also to combat the probability of reoffending by ensuring gradual integration back into the community under controlled circumstances. This gives communities the opportunity to accept their responsibility in the rehabilitation of offenders.”

Modise emphasised that parole was not a right for offenders but rather based on the offender’s merit while at a correctional centre.

The decision to grant an offender parole lies with the Correctional Supervision and Parole Board.

There are currently 53 boards designated to correctional centres across the country, which are responsible for dealing with parole matters and supervision.

The boards comprise community members appointed by the Minister of Justice and Correctional Services and officials from the department.

To qualify for parole, an offender must have served half of the sentence.

“Offenders who received life imprisonment can be eligible for parole after serving 25 years of their sentence but the decision to grant parole lies with the Minister. Persons declared habitual criminals could receive parole after serving at least seven years.”

The manager of a correctional centre decides parole for offenders sentenced for 24 months and less.

The decision to grant parole also depends on the merit of the offender and the offender’s sentence plan.

When an offender is sentenced, a sentence plan is allocated to determine how the offender can be rehabilitated.

For example, it is established if an offender may need counselling or education. These factors are included in their sentence plan and addressed in the quest to rehabilitate the offender.

As part of monitoring behaviour, a case management committee is appointed to meet with the offender every six months up until the date of release.

“The committee looks at whether the offender is showing remorse; whether there is willingness to change and if the rules and regulations of the correctional centre are being followed.

“The committee then makes recommendations to the parole boards for the offender to be paroled.”

When considering an offender for parole, special attention is given to the type of crime committed, length of the sentence, how the crime was committed and the offended, among others.

“When consideration is given to release an offender, the potential risks related to placement are thoroughly considered and measures are put in place.”

The offender, however, continues to be under supervision until the sentence has expired.

Different types of methods to monitor paroled offenders include house arrest, community service and electronic monitoring.

People affected by the crime committed also have the right to give their views to the parole board before an offender can be paroled.

“The offended may make representations to the board and they may even be allowed to attend sessions of the board.”

The different types of parole include day and medical parole.

An offender granted day parole may leave the correctional centre during the day and return at night.

“Day parole allows offenders to be part of the community; it is part of gradual integration.”

According to Modise, day parole is for longterm prisoners to help familiarise them with changes in the outside world.

This also gives offenders a chance to strengthen their ties with their families or to find employment before being released.

Regarding medical parole, Modise explained that if a hospitalised offender’s health condition deteriorated rapidly, the hospital would write a report to the case management committee.

The committee would make a recommendation to the Medical Advisory Board, which then advises the Minister to release the offender on medical parole.

When the offender is released on medical parole, strict measures include being monitored by the department until the end of the sentence.

Modise said placement under supervision could be considered for offenders with a sentence of five years and less.

“When an offender serves one sixth of their sentence they can be considered for placement outside a correctional centre on conditions.”

These conditions include being placed under house arrest or monitored electronically until the end of the sentence.

Modise encouraged communities to support offenders when they reintegrate into a community.

“We urge the public to allow offenders a second chance into the community, especially if they have changed.”

Everybody deserves a second chance in life, Modise pointed out.