Correctional Services Minister Ronald Lamola says COVID-19 preventative measures have been stretched to the limit at correctional facilities in the country and the virus continues to spread.
The Human Rights Commission has welcomed the announcement by President Cyril Rampaphosa to place on parole selected categories of sentenced offenders.
The commission says this is in line with the recent advisory recommendations issued by the Commission under its National Preventative Mechanism mandate to the state.
The commission says people who are going to be released are those who did not commit violent crimes.
HRC Commissioner Chris Nissen has appealed to the public to understand the reasons behind releasing people on parole.
“I had the opportunity to visit many many prisons across the country and when I saw the overcrowding, with COVID now, there is no way that social distancing can be maintained in some of those cells. And therefore in order to save lives in order for us to understand what it looks like inside those Correctional Services because of the crowding I appeal to South Africans to understand this reason why the President has agreed to the parole of thousands of people.”
The Police and Prisons Civil Rights Union (Popcru) also has welcomed the announcement by President Ramaphosa.
The 19 000 low-risk offenders have served their minimum sentence and the process will be in effect for the next 10 weeks.
Poprcu is urging authorities not to take those caught breaking lockdown rules to police holding cells as they are equally crowded. The union suggests rather than arrest, they should be fined.
Currently, there are 177 confirmed COVID-19 cases in South African prisons.