The Department of Correctional Services will be engaging communities to get the public’s input on the Special Remission of Sentence. President Cyril Ramaphosa announced a special remission on 16 December 2019, where some offenders had their sentences drastically reduced. However, President Ramaphosa said that those jailed for sexual offences and violent crimes would not be eligible for this special process.
He said that such remissions are not new as former Presidents Nelson Mandela and Thabo Mbeki once made them. These remissions are carefully considered, considering the interest of the public and the administration of justice. Special remission of sentence for specific categories of offenders, those out on probation and those on parole started from 27 December 2019.
Speaking to VOC Breakfast Beat, Pollsmoor prison spokesperson Lewies David said that offenders who committed non -aggressive crimes are the ones who are given remission. Non- aggressive crimes are petty crimes such as theft and shoplifting the smaller crimes
“Once in every seven years, we are given amnesty, when a new president comes into a new term. President Cyril Ramaphosa has not given his yet, but he has decided on Reconciliation Day to give this special remission. It also helps to reduce overcrowding in prisons, as offenders cannot afford bail due to poverty levels in communities,” said Davids.
“There are three reasons why offenders get released, the first one is service expiry date which means he is done with his sentence. The second one is person who is placed on parole where he is under supervision through community corrections, then thirdly, remissions of sentences where the President uses the powers invested in him by the Constitution where he grants remission effectively to cut the sentence shorter. Presidential pardon is the only one where the criminal record can be wiped away completely.”
Area Commissioner of Pollsmoor, Ntobeko Mketshane will engage with stakeholders and communities to inform the public on how far the process has evolved and challenges experienced. Mketshane will also relate to unintended consequences related to erroneous releases and re-offending during the process.
Davids said they have a case management committee and five parole guards who sit and review the offenders cases to see who should be given remission.
“Pollsmoor Medium B is the prison where offenders are charged for further charges, which means they must appear again due to it being close to the High court. We have high volumes of offenders coming to our prison. We are servicing 27 courts in the Peninsula and more than 55 police stations. If the load can be taken off just a little bit, it would help” said Davids.
Davids said that they have released 814 offenders by 28 January this year. He said that they have started going out to communities to address the fears of having these offenders reintegrated back into communities.
David emphasized that he would like communities to open their hearts to the offenders being released to the communities for them to have a soft landing in the streets. He said that some offenders don’t have the proper support when they are released from prison and the community should welcome them into the homes and churches. It would help them to live a noble life acceptable in the communities and help rid communities of social ills.
There will be a gathering on Sunday, 16 February at Pelican Park Primary School at 2pm, to speak to the community about the remissions of non-aggressive offenders.