Life prisoners to be freed?

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The Department of Correctional Services says it will conduct an audit of all inmates sentenced to life before October 1, 2004 for possible consideration for parole. A circular will be sent out to direct all regions to prioritise the consideration of placement on parole of inmates sentenced to life before October 2004, the department says in a statement.

However, the department cautions that not any inmate sentenced to life incarceration before October 2004 had a right to be placed on parole or day parole, the state BuaNews agency said. The minimum detention period for inmates sentenced to life before October 2004 is no longer a blanket 20 year period – this changed after a court ruling last month.

The Constitutional Court found that in order for the provisions of the Correctional Services Act to be constitutional, it must be interpreted as stating that inmates sentenced to life before October 2004 must be considered for placement on parole in accordance with the legislative provisions and policies applicable on the date of sentencing.

The court arrived at this interpretation based on the fact that sentenced offenders should benefit from the least severe prescribed punishment applicable at the time of sentencing. The department said the audit will also be extended to inmates sentenced to life between August 1, 1987 and March 1, 1994. “These inmates now qualify for consideration for placement on parole after having served at least 10 years but placement on parole may only in exceptional cases take place before 15 years,” the department said.



Inmates sentenced to life between March 1, 1994 and April 3, 1995 will qualify for consideration for placement on parole after having served at least 20 years and inmates sentenced to life between April 3, 1995 and October 1, 2004 will qualify for consideration for placement on parole after having served at least 20 years, provided that in exceptional cases it can be done earlier.
“The basic impact of the decision is that inmates sentenced between 1987 and 1994 who would not necessarily have appeared before a Parole Board as yet, in terms of the 20 year policy that was applied, must now be prioritised for consideration by the different Case Management Committees,” the department said.