Release of prisoner statement by National Deputy-Secretary (17 July 1998)

The announcement by Correctional Services Minister Mzimela, that prisoners would be granted a six-month remission to mark President Mandela's birthday, is greeted with surprise. The granting of remission itself is a known practice normally done for technical and practical reasons such as the overcrowding of prisons. We are sure that it will also assist in the overcrowding of SA prisons but granting remission though to mark the celebration of a birthday, even that of somebody with the stature of President Mandela, in a country where crime is one of the single greatest challenges becomes ridiculous

To reduce the sentences of prisoners, irrespective of the crimes committed by them, can only be described as insensitive to the victims of these prisoners. It is these types of actions that frustrates and lower the moral of police personnel and state prosecutors. The releasing of 9 000 prisoners onto the streets without a contingency plan about where they go and what they will be doing for a living, especially in the economic circumstances as it is, is an irresponsible act by government. How are these prisoners expected to make a living for themselves in an environment where there are no jobs?

The UDM hopes that government will also take the responsibility for the safety of the person and property with hardened criminals back onto the streets. The UDM will monitor with interest statistics of crime committed by those who will now be released. Actions such as these do not build confidence in the government's ability to properly deal with and represent the interests of all South Africans.

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