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Parole in South Africa.

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While imprisonment developed as a more humanitarian alternative to the brutal forms of punishments which prevailed throughout history, it became increasingly evident that it had dysfunctional consequences in respect of the ability of prisoners to achieve a socially acceptable adjustment after their release from incarceration. As a result, the practice of releasing prisoners conditionally, before their sentences had expired, gradually developed. The historical roots of this practice, which became known as 'parole' - from the French concept of 'parole d'honneur', meaning word of honour - lie mainly in the practice of releasing prisoners on ticket-of-leave, developed by Maconochie at the Norfolk Island penal colony, and in the more refined conditional release system introduced into Ireland by Crofton. From the English-speaking world, the concept of parole soon spread to other countries in the Western World, and gradually became an important penological technique. Although provision was made for the conditional release of prisoners in the South African Prisons and Reformatories Act of 1911, the formal and systematic application of parole only really started coming into its own in the early 1950's. With the increasing emphasis on rehabilitation in the Prison Service, came the appointment of growing numbers of social workers and psychologists in prisons. This, in turn led to the development of a more structured and formal parole system. Yet, considerable discontent grew, especially among the judiciary, in respect of the application of parole. It was the large-scale release of short-term prisoners on so-called 'parole ' virtually immediately after their admission to prison, which incensed particularly the magistrates. An attitude survey regarding parole among judges, magistrates, the categories of prison personnel mainly responsible for the treatment of prisoners, and NICRO social workers revealed considerable disenchantment with the way in which parole was applied. What was particularly significant was that a large number of magistrates regarded parole as representing interference with the judicial decision. Furthermore, it emerged that the majority of persons from all categories of respondents felt that parole supervision was inadequate. A study of the nature and extent of parole supervision as conducted by the National Institute for Crime Prevention and Rehabilitation of Offenders (NICRO), as the only specialised private prison aftercare agency, revealed that such supervision is not of a sufficiently high standard. However, it emerged from a survey of the role of NICRO in the pre-release preparation of parolees that the organisation's involvement in such preparation was only marginal. This, it is felt, together with other factors over which NICRO had little or no control, play an important part in the inadequacy of parole supervision generally. In order to gain a comparative perspective, the Canadian parole system was also studied. It emerged that, while the complex federal-provincial relations render the Canadian parole system somewhat cumbersome, it is generally a sophisticated system, various aspects of which are worthy of emulation. This is particularly true of the variety of flexible conditional release procedures, and of the clearly structured and well administered parole system generally. However, the most valuable lesson that can be gleaned from the Canadian parole practice probably lies in the involvement of a variety of private citizens in the parole decision-making process. A number of recommendations are made in respect of the possible improvement of the South African parole system. These concern the promulgation of a parole act and parole regulations, the establishment of a national parole board, selection of prisoners for conditional release, adequate pre-release preparation of prospective parolees, release of prisoners on parole, supervision of parolees, parole conditions, suspension and revocation of parole, professional staff, liaison between all those involved in the parole system, the immediate release of short-term prisoners, and mandatory supervision.


Thesis (Ph.D.)-University of Durban-Westville, 1982.


Parole--South Africa., Theses--Social work.