Where is the promised policy on special remission of sentences?
James Selfe, DA Spokesperson on Correctional Services
6 May 2012
I will today be writing to the Chairperson of the Portfolio Committee on Correctional Services, Mr Vincent Smith, requesting a briefing by the Department of Correctional Service on the status of the promised policy on special remission.
In its 2006/2007 Annual Report, the Department states that “a policy regarding special remission is being developed.” To my knowledge, no such policy has been presented to the Portfolio Committee as yet.
We now have a situation where the President has announced another round of special remissions which will in effect be managed in a policy vacuum.
The Department further claims that there are “no fixed criteria” for granting special remission of sentences in terms of Section 84 (2)(j) of the Constitution.
The preliminary report on a previous round of remissions presented to the Portfolio Committee in August 2005 identified a number of serious flaws in that process; not least of which was the high number of crimes committed by released prisoners and their re-admission to correctional facilities. The report also made a number of recommendations around how a similar process can be managed more effectively in the future.
The operational plan around special remissions granted by President Jacob Zuma on 27 April this year does not substantially differ from that of 2005. It therefore appears that neither the recommendations nor any of the concerns highlighted by the preliminary report have been taken into consideration.
Accordingly, the Department must brief the Portfolio Committee on the status of the proposed policy on special remission, the manner in which recommendations and concerns highlighted in the preliminary 2005 report were addressed and further details on how the recently announced special remissions will be managed.
South Africans have to be assured that their security will not be compromised by the early release of 35 000 prisoners.
A clear policy framework could mitigate the potential risks of early release of prisoners and identify mechanisms to address any potential negative consequences. The Minister must explain why the Department is dragging its feet in developing such a policy.