Correctional facilities are considered high-risk areas for infection.
This followed a call by the United Nations to all countries to reduce prison populations to maintain social distancing and self-isolation.
The presidency said in a statement: “The President has taken this decision in terms of Section 82(1)(a) of the Correctional Services Act of 1998 which empowers the President to authorise at any time the placement on correctional supervision or parole of any sentenced prisoner, subject to conditions that may be recommended by the Correctional Supervision and Parole Board.”
Almost 19,000 out of 155,000 inmates will be released from the country’s correctional services facilities.
Only low-risk inmates who have passed their minimum detention period or will approach this period in the coming five years will be granted parole.
“This dispensation excludes inmates sentenced to life imprisonment or serving terms for specified other serious crimes, including sexual offences, murder and attempted murder, gender based violence and child abuse.
“Inmates that will be affected by this decision will be placed on parole instead of having their sentences remitted. They will therefore continue to serve their sentence under Community Corrections until they reach their respective sentence expiry dates.”
The process will take place over a 10-week period.
Offenders may be re-arrested should they violate their release conditions.
Minister of Justice Ronald Lamola would provide more details on the parole placement programme, said the presidency.
(Compiled by Vhahangwele Nemakonde)