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Monday, November 27, 2023

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Pistorius is getting out of jail; South Africa balks

“Imprisonment of 10 months for killing their daughter is not enough.” That’s how the parents of Reeva Steenkamp put it in a letter submitted to the parole board tasked with dealing with Oscar Pistorius’ murder case, ENCA reported.

But the concerns of June and Barry Steenkamp – that a ten-month prison term for the killing of their daughter does not send out a suitably strict message of prevention – will not be enough to keep Pistorius in the Kgosi Mampuru II prison in Pretoria beyond August.

South Africans have responded with shock on social media to the coming up release of Pistorius, but this course of events was practically assured from the moment Judge Thokozile Masipa sentenced the athlete to five years in jail for culpable murder.

Procedurally, there is nothing unpleasant about Pistorius spending only ten months of this punishment behind bars. The laws permitting Pistorius to be free after such a short space of time are the Criminal Procedure Act and the Correctional Services Act, which allow for an criminal to “serve only one sixth of his/her sentence in custody, and continue to serve the remaining period of the sentence under correctional supervision”. This only applies when the judgment to be served does not go above five years.

The parole board of the Kgosi Mampuru II prison met last Friday and accepted his parole, reporters were informed on Monday. While Barry and June Steenkamp’s letter would have been considered as a formal submission, it would have been only one aspect taken into account.

Correctional Services has therefore far been silent about the reasoning behind the conclusion to release Pistorius. But the fact that he had been recommended for house arrest, spokesman Manelisi Wolela told SAFM, was evidence that the athlete’s conduct while imprisoned had been “acceptable”, and that he had been “upgraded” while serving his sentence.

Wolela clarified that “tolerable” manners meant obeying rules and not “creating problems inside our amenities”.

Wolela said that Pistorius had had connections with other prisoners while imprisoned in the Kgosi Mampuru II hospital wing, though it’s been reported elsewhere that the athlete spends up to 23 hours a day in isolation. In March, footage obtained by the Daily Sun showed Pistorius playing soccer with murder-accused Czech businessman Radovan Krejcir.

That has been one of the few leaks from within the facility since Pistorius went in last October. Pistorius’ brother Carl told YOU Magazine in December last year that the athlete was participating in a healing programme called New Beginnings.

Prisons boss Zach Modise also indicated on Monday that one of the reasons why Pistorius was being free was for the reason that he had finished a number of courses – among them, apparently one on anger management.

What will Pistorius’ life be like while under house arrest? The Department of Correctional Services has indicated that it will not be making the situation of the athlete’s “correctional supervision” public for now, but the department’s website gives general details as to the normal provisions.

Offenders are normally restricted to a certain area, so there won’t be any abroad trips for Pistorius. He also won’t be able to change his place of residence without approval. While under house arrest, offenders are allowed to “take part in controlled sport activities, to attend church services, to do the necessary shopping, etc”.

Pistorius will have to report to the Community Corrections Office at set intervals, and will also be monitored by correctional officials who will pay visits to his house. He may have to complete some kind of community service or attend “specific programmes or lectures on specific subjects”. It’s doubtful that he will be permitted to drink alcohol.

Most importantly, he can’t perpetrate any kind of criminal offence.

If Pistorius violates these conditions, he isn’t automatically sent back to jail. “Serious or persistent violations of conditions”, however, mean that he might have to serve the rest of his sentence behind bars.

Ten weeks prior to Pistorius’ release (i.e. perhaps around next week), he will start “release preparation”, which is intended to “prepare the convict to deal effectively with the problems which he/she may experience while in the community”.

The programme will include schooling him in the conditions of his correctional supervision and the consequences for non-compliance. It is also intended to assist him in “dealing with the shame attached to imprisonment”.

Pistorius’ lawyer Rohan Kruger told the UK’s Sunday Times last month that the athlete wanted to work with children when released. “The parole conditions will be at their discretion: don't drink or do drugs; go to church. He'll have a psychological programme, an anger management course. They will set the parameters and he will keep to them,” Kruger said.

But Pistorius also won’t be able to get too relaxed out of his jail jumpsuit. Just three months after his release on parole, the Supreme Court of Appeal in Bloemfontein will see five judges hear the state’s application against the athlete’s culpable homicide conviction.

There, prosecutors will dispute that Judge Thokozile Masipa’s explanation of the law was incorrect and that Pistorius should rightly be convicted of the murder of the Reeva Steenkamp.

If the judges overturn Pistorius’ culpable homicide conviction and replace it with a murder conviction in November, Pistorius faces a minimum sentence of 15 years.

There are many who feel that such a sentence would constitute a more fitting punishment for extinguishing a life with four bullets. Ten months disadvantaged of free will may have seemed like an eternity to Pistorius, but is that really all the life of Reeva Steenkamp was worth?

Picture credit: ndtv.com

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