Prisoners head for home in wave of mass releases
260 freed so far this week from provincial correctional centres
EIGHT women convicts jailed for crimes ranging from theft and shoplifting to fraud were yesterday released from the East London Medium C Female Correctional Centre in West Bank.
A further 17 women offenders convicted for the same type of crimes were released from the centre on Monday.
The 25 offenders are among those being released in the province in terms of President Jacob Zuma’s special remission programme.
They bring to 260 the total number of convicts released from the provincial correctional centres this week. The number includes women, disabled offenders, elderly offenders and juveniles.
The provincial department of correctional services last week also lifted its conditions on about 3 500 offenders who were on probation or parole.
The special remission of sentenced offenders, aimed to ease pressure on the country’s overcrowded prisons, was announced by Zuma during Freedom Day celebrations.
Safety and liaison MEC Helen Sauls-august appealed to the Eastern Cape community to accept the prisoners released on the programme.
“Communities should welcome these ex-prisoners and help them adapt to a crime-free life,” SaulsAugust said.
Yesterday correctional services spokesman Zama Feni said while one released offender, Lecia Hendricks, 30, was out on “unconditional” parole, her seven counterparts were released on parole with stricter measures.
“They are not entirely free – their parole comes with conditions that need to be adhered to,” he said.
Feni said the women were being released into the jurisdiction of various correctional offices in East London, Mdantsane, Butterworth and Mthatha.
“They will be monitored by our officials and they will respect the parole conditions,” he said, adding this would last for a period of six to 12 months.
Correctional centre head Hannes Botes said the centre was 6% overcrowded, but the situation was “manageable”.
“The released offenders are ready to head back to the community and have been exposed to special skills training programmes during their stay,” Botes said.
Hendricks, who hails from Port Elizabeth, said she could not wait to see her three children.
She has been in prison for eight months serving a 27 months sentence for shoplifting.
“I could not believe it and was very excited to hear I am finally going home,” she said.
Hendricks said having no friends and family visit during her time in prison was painful.
“I faced my consequences alone and I have paid the price. I want to start all over again but this time around on the right side of the law,” she said.
Offender Nondumiso Maguma, who has been in prison for four years, said she was excited to go home.
She had been serving eight years for crimes ranging from fraud to shoplifting and theft.
The crimes were committed in Mdantsane and East London.
“I would sell clothes I had shoplifted to stores in order to support my son,” Maguma said. “I have learned my lesson. “That time lost is time, never to be regained. In the past four years I have been here (in jail) I could have been doing something better with my life,” she said.
Maguma said she had learned the meaning of the statement “crime does not pay”.
“I am ready to face the community I have stolen from,” she said. — firstname.lastname@example.org