DA: Remission of prison sentences a slap in the face

The remission of sentences announced by President Jacob Zuma on Freedom Day is a slap in the face for crime victims and their families, the DA said in a statement on Friday night.

“In addition, it diminishes the deterrent effect of sentences,” said Democratic Alliance correctional services spokesperson James Selfe.

Zuma used the Freedom Day celebrations to the announce the first special remission of sentences he has granted since taking office.

He said there would be a six months’ blanket special remission of sentence for all sentenced offenders, probationers and parolees.

An additional 12 months’ special remission of sentence would be made for all sentenced inmates, probationers and parolees, excluding those sentenced for aggressive, sexual, firearm and drug-related offences, and people declared dangerous criminals.

Selfe said there was overcrowding in prisons and corrective measures were needed, but there were more imaginative ways the problem could be addressed.

Community-based sentencing would enable perpetrators to give back to the community, he said.

Previous remissions
Announcing the remission, Zuma said it was in keeping with the spirit of the celebration of the country’s 18 years of freedom and in line with established international practice.

He said previous remissions had also been granted to coincide with key national days.

There was a remission when former president Nelson Mandela was inaugurated on May 10, 1994; the first Freedom Day on April 27, 1995; Mandela’s 80th birthday on July 18, 1998; and to mark the first year of former president Thabo Mbeki’s second term in office on May 30, 2005.

Zuma said the ministers of the Justice, Crime Prevention and Security cluster would provide the details and specific circumstances of those who would benefit from the latest reduction.

He said the categories and lengths of remission were based on a Cabinet decision made in relation to the special remission of 2005. — Sapa

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