IE 11 is not supported. For an optimal experience visit our site on another browser.

South Africa under fire over prisoner release

South Africa’s plan to release thousands of inmates from its seriously overcrowded prisons has come in for criticism after a freed prisoner was arrested for raping a toddler.
/ Source: Reuters

South Africa’s plan to release thousands of inmates from its seriously overcrowded prisons has come in for criticism after a freed prisoner was arrested for raping a toddler.

South Africa has since June released more than 30,000 prisoners under a program officials say is aimed at rehabilitation, angering opposition MPs who said it undermined the justice system. A further 33,000 were freed from parole.

Justice analysts say the releases will ease serious overcrowding in South Africa’s prisons, some of them now at three times capacity in a country with one of the highest crime rates in the world.

But the program ran into controversy when a man released earlier this year was re-arrested last week for raping a three-year-old girl.

Local media said parliament’s Correctional Services committee had summoned the prisons chief to explain the incident.

But Correctional Services spokesman Graham Abrahams said on Monday that the convict, jailed for indecent assault, had been due for release anyway and denied that dangerous criminals were slipping through the cracks.

“Up to date virtually 68,000 offenders or parolees and probationers have gained from remission of sentence. Less than 0.25 percent have been re-arrested,” Abrahams said.

“Quite clearly the majority of persons who have benefited from this are showing a commitment not to be engaged in crime.”

The main opposition Democratic Alliance (DA), which opposed the release program from the start, was outraged that a man convicted of a serious crime was allowed to go free.

“There is clearly something wrong in our justice and corrections system if a man like this can walk free from prison only to commit the same crimes again,” the party said in a statement.