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19,000 South African prisoners to regain freedom amid COVID-19 spread

By News Desk

The South African President Cyril Ramaphosa, has disclosed that 19,000 of low-risk prisoners would be granted parole to help curb the spread of the coronavirus in correctional facilities.

Ramaphosa’s statement came hours after United Nation call on all countries to reduce their prison populations so that social distancing and self-isolation conditions can be observed.

South Africa, beset by high crime rates and violence against women and children, has 155,000 prisoners. The country of 58 million had recorded 8,232 cases of COVID-19 as of Thursday and 161 deaths.

“In South Africa, as in many other countries, correctional facilities have witnessed outbreaks of coronavirus infections among inmates and personnel,” Ramaphosa said in a statement.

South Africa has registered 172 confirmed cases of COVID-19 and three deaths at its correctional facilities including inmates and staff, Justice and Correctional Services Minister Ronald Lamola said at a briefing outlining details of the release.

“We are confronted with a glaring impossibility of maintaining social distancing in our centres due to overcrowding,” Lamola said.

The coronavirus has spread to prisons around the world, prompting inmate releases.

Ramaphosa said the parole, which follows similar moves in other countries, would apply to low-risk inmates who have passed their minimum detention period.

Inmates sentenced to life terms or convicted of serious crimes, including sexual offences, murder and attempted murder, gender based violence and child abuse would not be eligible and offenders would be arrested if they violated release conditions.


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