- Crime activists have raised concerns that there aren’t enough parole officers.
- About 8 000 inmates are on parole and probation in the Western Cape.
- Community policing forums want to be consulted before a decision is made to release parolees.
More than 5 000 inmates were released on parole and more than 2 000 on probation in the Western Cape in 2023, according to the Department of Correctional Services.
The volume of cases has raised red flags, with activists and forums alike saying there aren’t enough parole officers to check on everyone.
“This is part of a bigger problem, as there is a shortage of police staff to monitor parolees,” warned Action Society director Ian Cameron.
He said there was a sense of fear in some communities when parolees were released.
“In terms of the success rate of rehabilitation, community members have lost trust in the process and would make assumptions that the rehabilitation of parolees is not successful.”
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Cameron added that a successful rehabilitation process results in residents trusting the process and, in turn, regaining trust in rehabilitated individuals.
“The December holidays also have the added risk for parolees to fall back into criminal activities [and] also for them to become involved in criminal activity in the community that they are a part of,” he said.
Correctional services spokesperson Candice van Reenen said, based on the first quarter of the 2023/24 financial year, the Western Cape had 5 300 parolees and just over 2 300 inmates on probation.
“For the period under review, 2023/24, 1 409 cases were considered for parole placement, those inmates serving two years or more.”
Van Reenen said of the 1 409 cases, further profiles were given for 554 inmates from those considered by the Correctional Supervision and Parole Board (CSPB).
Offenders’ profiles mean they are forwarded to the CSPB by the case management committee for consideration.
“For the period under review, the CSPB endorsed 705 placements. For the first quarter of the financial year, the Western Cape had 467 revocations,” Van Reenen said.
National community policing forum chairperson (CPF) Fransina Lukas said they were disappointed that correctional services did not consult with them before deciding on the releases.
It is quite shocking that such a huge number of parolees have already been released back into communities without the consultation of the CPFs that work hard to prevent crimes in the very same communities where these parolees were arrested for committing various vicious crimes.
“We are already trying our best to reduce crimes in the community, these parolees that were released will cause much discomfort in many communities.
“This release not only brings about disappointment, but also unrest as there is no guarantee that these criminals will not commit crime again.”
The chairperson of the Mitchells Plain CPF, Norman Jantjies, said if parolees returned to the suburb, there was always the risk that they could re-offend.
“People are already a bit frightened, especially if serious criminals are released, and sometimes we can see there’s an increase in gang activity or shootings [in the area],” he said.
Elsies River CPF chairperson Chief Hamish Arries said since the start of the year, the suburb had experienced gang fights, claiming that parolees were the main culprits.
“Some would be released back into the community without the CPF or police being notified.
“It is a fact that some parolees attained higher rankings while incarcerated and have to prove themselves once released,” Arries said.
Action Society’s Ian Cameron outside the Gugulethu Police Station after he lodged complaints against Police Minister Bheki Cele and members of the SA Police Service in Cape Town.
He added that the CPF had engaged with the Judicial Inspectorate for Correctional Services regarding the lack of communication about the release of parolees.
“Our last meeting held in November at the Goodwood Correctional Centre paved the way for better communication so that we as the Elsies River CPF know who will be released.
“We understand and acknowledge that the reintegration of offenders is important, but we must be involved in the process,” Arries added.
One of the most high-profile parolees released in the Western Cape was Norman Afzal Simons, who was accused but never convicted of the Station Strangler murders.
He was released on parole after spending 28 years in prison for the murder of 10-year-old Elroy van Rooyen.
Western Cape Community Safety and Police Oversight MEC Reagen Allen.
National police commissioner Fannie Masemola, national community policing forum chairperson Fransina Lukas, Western Cape Police Oversight and Community Safety MEC Reagan Allen and Western Cape police commissioner Thembisile Patekile.
Police Oversight and Community Safety MEC Reagen Allen said being released on parole was a privilege afforded to sentenced convicts after they have been incarcerated for a certain period.
“The SAPS informed us that, between April and 21 November 2023, they have a record of 2 902 persons released on parole in the Western Cape.
“This figure is unconfirmed as there has been no response from the Department of Correctional Services.
“Regrettably, of these, 113 re-offended and have been arrested. This includes 19 for assault, 17 for possession of drugs, 14 for theft and four for murder.”
Allen added that the onus was on correctional services to ensure all parolees adhere to their parole conditions.
“We cannot have situations where individuals re-offend in this manner.
“It further opens up questions about the rehabilitation process and what is being done in this regard.”
He said he would continue to engage the police and establish from the correctional service’s provincial commissioner how parolees are tracked and monitored.
“We want to ensure that our residents do not live in fear of those who have been released on parole,” Allen added.