Tighter medical parole – no more ‘Shaik, rattle and roll’

Chris Bateman


The dozen or more GPs who will serve on the new medical parole review board can brace themselves for some seriously hard work, courtesy of a widened definition of qualifying parole conditions, but well-connected convicts hoping for compliant ‘tame’ medics are in for a shock.
Gone is the disproportionate weight given to the initial recommendations of a single medical officer attached to any particular prison, as is the power of any one of the individual 52 general parole boards to release or transfer an inmate on medical grounds. Instead, from 1 March this year, all applications for medical parole (now allowed on grounds of incapacitating disease and not just terminal illness) must go through the new single central medical parole review board. Set up in terms of the Correctional Matters Amendment Bill, the new body is independent of government and may call in as many expert opinions as it pleases. While the 52 general parole boards could in the past call in expert medical opinion, the system was open to abuse and selective bias, as was the influence of each prison district’s medical officer. Multiple prisons’ inspections by government and South African Medical Association (SAMA) officials over the past few years have also shown that very few prisons have sufficient or appropriate medical facilities for serious conditions. The probes uncovered a chorus of ‘cry foul’ complaints by prisoners who said politically connected individuals were receiving preferential treatment while large numbers of medical parole applications by seriously ill inmates were being overlooked.

Author's affiliations

Chris Bateman, HMPG

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medical parole, correctional services, new law

Cite this article

South African Medical Journal 2012;102(4):210-212.

Article History

Date submitted: 2012-03-06
Date published: 2012-03-14

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