Parole, release and restorative justice: Minister and National Council for Correctional Services
May 25, 2012
The meeting provided an opportunity for the Portfolio Committee (PC) to engage with the Minister and the National Council for Correctional Services (NCCS) on matters of parole and release, with particular emphasis on the position of those sentenced to life imprisonment (lifers) and the role of the restorative justice processes.
....Members noted that although the NCCS had a specific function, pertinent to the correctional services environment, it did affect other departments, and recommended that the Department of Justice and Constitutional Development (DOJ) needed to be involved in discussions on the challenges around minimum sentencing. Particular problems existed with the interpretation of “release date”, as a result of the judgment in the Waterkloof matter.
Members also questioned the relative weight in parole of restorative justice aspects, and whether victims could cause the decision to grant parole to be reversed. The answer received from the Minister and the Council was that restorative justice was a policy, but that it did not carry overriding weight. The considerations around whether parole was appropriate took into account not only the crime, the sentence, and the circumstances of the offender, but also the readiness of the community to receive the parolee, and the probability of reoffending. In some cases, considerations had been postponed for six to twelve months, to allow further debate.
A Member raised the point that some sentences in the past had been affected by the prejudices of the sentencing officers, and concerns were raised that the Committee had been told that a list of offenders had been published, indicating those who were to be considered for parole. The Minister clarified that this was not so, and that whilst information on who might be affected by the Van Vuuren judgment was given, no lists were published.