Committee Supports Medical Parole
Parliament’s Portfolio Committee on Correctional Services has stated that it in no way doubts the relevance of the Medical Parole Board. The Committee also said it will make sure that the Department of Correctional Services complies with legislation and it will monitor and protect the Department’s credibility.
This follows the Committee’s meeting with the Department of Correctional Services and the Medical Parole Board. The Medical Parole Board was presenting to the Committee on how the board administers medical paroles.
The Parole Board presented that sometimes prisoners die while waiting to be paroled. The Committee Chairperson said it was unacceptable that people died while waiting for medical parole.
The Committee was discussing the medical parole of former Police Commissioner Jackie Selebi, among other things. In his maiden speech to the Committee, the new Minister of Correctional Services, Mr Sibusiso Ndebele, said that public education about the system of parole was necessary.
“It is a very misunderstood system, as has been witnessed in some of the commentary on the release of Mr Selebi on medical parole,” he said. He added that for the offenders who have served long sentences in facilities, the system of day parole should be enhanced.
Mr Ndebele also said that prisons were overcrowded and that correctional centres must not be places for locking up people and throwing away the key, but rather centres where offenders are involved in workshops.
Committee members agreed with the Minister that offenders sentenced to less than three months in prison should not be incarcerated but rather rehabilitated through other programmes. This echoed the Minister’s view that for lesser crimes there should be community correction. He stated that the South African incarceration rate had focused his attention on the need for better use of non-custodial sentences as a possible path to rehabilitation for offenders guilty of lesser crimes, and the improved management and capacity of community corrections centres.
The Chairperson of the Committee said that the Department also needed to get rid of cellphone signals in prisons to cut prisoners’ access to the outside world. Member of Parliament James Selfe said that offenders should be encouraged to study while in prison rather than just waiting to be released. Kanyisa Ndyondya