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Correctional Supervision and Parole Boards

What is parole?

Parole is an internationally accepted mechanism that allows for the conditional release of offenders from a correctional centre into the community prior to the expiration of their entire sentences of imprisonment, as imposed by a court of law.

In South Africa it is referred to as a placement option from prison into the system of community corrections. This means that the offender is released from prison prior to the expiry of his or her entire sentence of imprisonment to serve the remainder of the sentence outside of prison subject to specific conditions that must be complied with.  This allows the offender to return to normal community life albeit under controlled conditions under the supervision of correctional officials.

Although an offender has to serve his full sentence, the Department of Correctional Services realizes that, in the interests of successful re-integration of the offender, it is normally not appropriate for him/her to serve the full period of his/her sentence in a Correctional Centre.  The possible parole placement or conversion of sentence of each offender is therefore considered individually on own merit according to progress with the sentence plan in order to determine the most appropriate stage for placement.  When consideration is given to releasing an offender the potential risks related to such a placement are thoroughly considered and specific measures are put in place to ensure that the necessary control and supervision will be exercised over the offender until expiration of sentence.

Although an offender has no right to be paroled, parole is an integrated part of the penal system and where an offender has demonstrated during his/her incarceration that he/she has been rehabilitated; that he/she is unlikely to be a danger to society and that there is a full awareness of and a contrition for the crime committed, the Board may approve/ recommended that a offender be released on conditions.  Parole therefore provides offenders with the incentive to demonstrate their commitment to rehabilitation and correcting offending behaviour which are important elements of them becoming productive citizens.

What is unconditional release?

When an offender is not considered a suitable candidate for conditional release as mentioned above, the release of the offender occurs at the expiry of his or her total sentence and no conditions for release can be set. This is the date when the total determinate sentence expires after amnesty and/or special remission of sentence have been deducted from the maximum date and is often referred to as unconditional release. This is the statutory date on which an offender must be released from a correctional centre.   

What is the difference between Parole placement and placement under Correctional Supervision

Parole:

Parole placement is the conditional release of an offender subjected to continuous good conduct and adaptation from a correctional centre after a minimum prescribed portion of sentence has been served in the centre and under specific conditions that allows for the offender’s re-incarceration in the event of non compliance of conditions of placement.

Correctional Supervision:

Placement under Correctional Supervision is a community-based sentencing option by the court which an offender serves under set conditions in the community. It also refers to an option where the Commissioner may convert a sentence of imprisonment after a portion has been served in a correctional centre under certain set conditions. 

What is the role of a Correctional Supervision and Parole Board?

Correctional Supervision and Parole Boards are responsible for dealing with parole matters and matters of correctional supervision.

The Correctional Supervision and Parole Boards have decision making competency with the exception of decisions regarding the granting of parole to people who are declared dangerous criminals in terms of Section 286A of the Criminal Procedure Act, the converting of sentences of imprisonment imposed in terms of Section 276 (A) (3) of the Criminal Procedure Act into correctional supervision and decisions with regard to those sentenced to life imprisonment. In such cases recommendations are submitted to the courts a quo who in turn will make decision in respect of conditional placement.

Composition of the boards

There are 52 Correctional Supervision and Parole Boards country-wide. These Boards will be chaired by community members who are regarded as suitable and capable of carrying out the responsibilities. Intensive training in respect of the processes, legislative implications and relative policies will be provided to them by the Department of Correctional Services.

In addition, two members of the community will also be appointed as members of the Board. The positions of vice-chairperson and secretary will be filled by trained staff members of the Department of Correctional Services. In addition, the Board can also co-opt a representative of the South African Police Services (SAPS) and a representative of the Department of Justice. However, if the representatives of SAPS and of Justice are not co-opted to participate in a board hearing, the chairperson of the Board may request such Departments to provide written inputs in respect of specific serious crimes.

Contact particulars of the Boards

Click here for Contact Particulars

Minimum periods to be served before placement is considered

It is important to note that although the new parole boards will consider submissions in respect of all categories offenders presented to it, the new requirements in terms of minimum periods of imprisonment that must be served before parole can be considered will only be applicable to offenders sentenced after 1 October 2004. This implies that all persons sentenced prior to promulgation of the new legislation will be dealt with in accordance with the provisions of the existing legislation (Act 8 of 1959). In other words offenders sentenced in the past and prior to the promulgation of the new legislation need not fear that the new legislation will hold negative implications with regards to the minimum periods that they must serve before parole can be considered.

In respect of offenders sentenced after 1 October 2004, the following minimum periods of imprisonment must be served before they may be considered for possible placement on parole: 

  • Determinate sentences: Half of the sentence or the non parole period as specified by the court or 25 years of the sentence, whichever is the shortest period.
  • Life imprisonment:    After having served twenty five years
  • Persons declared Habitual Criminals: After having served at least seven years
  • Scheduled offences in terms of the Criminal Law Amendment Act: After serving 80% of the sentence but the court may rule that only two thirds of the sentence need to be served

In respect of offender’s who can be considered for placement under Correctional Supervision or referred back to the court a quo for possible conversion of sentence into Correctional Supervision the following periods must be served:

  • Section 276 1(i) of the Criminal Procedure Act.

      1/6 of sentence must be served prior to placement under Correctional Supervision by the Commissioner. Sentence may not exceed 5 years.

  • Section 276(1) (b) of the Criminal Procedure Act.      

Normal term of imprisonment which may be referred to the court a quo upon completion of 1/4 of sentence for possible conversion of sentence in terms of section 276A (3). The portion of sentence left to be served may not exceed 5 years.

  • Section 287(4) (a) of the Criminal Procedure Act.

      Option of a fine as alternative to imprisonment where the sentence does not exceed 5 years: As soon as possible after admission subject to certain conditions.

  • Section 287 (4) (b) of the Criminal Procedure Act.

      Option of a fine as alternative to imprisonment where the sentence exceeds 5 years imprisonment. Upon completion of 1/4 of sentence case may be referred to court a quo for possible conversion.

The consideration of placement

During the consideration of placement of an offender, specific attention is given to the type of crime committed, the length of the sentence and the gravity thereof which must be counterbalanced with other factors for consideration, including circumstances surrounding the committing of crime, the victim etc. The conduct of the offender, his/ her adaptation in a correctional centre and his/ her progress on the way to rehabilitation and correcting offending behaviour will also play an important role when considering possible placement.

When consideration is given to releasing an offender the potential risks related to such a placement are thoroughly considered and specific measures are put in place to ensure that the necessary control and supervision will be exercised over the offender until expiration of sentence.

Irrespective of the period served, an offender would be found unsuitable for parole placement if he/she:

  • poses a real threat or danger to the community,
  • has repeatedly shown that he/ she does not wish to or cannot comply with set conditions of conditional release
  • does not comply with the expectations of imprisonment including compliance with the sentence plan, adaptation or behavioural problems etc..

In such a case it will be advisable that the offender preferably serve a greater part of his/her sentence in a Correctional Centre.  In order to be able to monitor his/ her reintegration into the community, he/she should be placed under parole supervision and under strict conditions for only a short period of time.  Only in exceptional cases offenders with poor prognosis are released conditionally. 

Complainant involvement

In another significant departure from past practices and in a deliberate attempt to empower complainants and victims of crime, the complainants or relatives of the complainants of certain specific serious crimes now may make representations to the Board and they may even be allowed to attend sessions of the Board. This is regarded as a significant milestone in the quest to establish and promote restorative justice as an acceptable and viable mediation process. Directives in this regard has been finalised and is available on our webpage. Correctional Supervision and Parole Boards can also be contacted for more information in this regard.