Those who have successfully served their sentences won’t need to go through the difficult process of having their criminal records removed from the prison system.
The declaration was given on Tuesday during the presentation of the matric results for inmates housed at the Westville correctional facility in Durban by Ronald Lamola, Minister of Justice and Correctional Services.
According to Lamola, the expungement of criminal records will happen automatically for the released prisoners, eliminating the need for them to submit an application.
The changes are contained in the Judicial Matters Amendment Bill that was tabled in parliament several months ago.
“There’s no law that prevents reformed ex-inmates who are skilled from being given employment opportunities, but companies are getting away with this, and we cannot force them to comply,” he said.
“The president will soon sign a new law that will make the expungement of criminal records easier.”
Its objectives include, but are not limited to, clearing the criminal records of those found guilty of violating Covid-19 regulations during the nation’s enforced lockdown.
It will entail inserting new sections into the Criminal Procedures Act of 1997, which will enable criminal records to be easily cleared.
The bill has already passed through parliamentary processes and is awaiting President Cyril Ramaphosa’s signature to become law.
The event that Lamola presided over was aimed at honouring and awarding inmates who wrote year-end matric exams in 2023.
A second chance in life
Lamola told Sunday World that he wanted to ensure that inmates and those who have since been released get a second chance in life by being equipped with educational and employment opportunities.
Inmates incarcerated in KwaZulu-Natal emerged as the big winners, topping the country as the best-performing matric class for 2023.
This aligns with the matriculation results that KwaZulu-Natal received last week, placing the province second behind the Free State, according to Basic Education Minister Angie Motshekga.
Lamola said the inmates achieved a 93.2% matriculation pass rate for the National Senior Certificate exams.
There were 278 distinctions recorded, and out of 147 inmates who sat for their exams, 137 passed. Thirty-four inmates received diploma passes, and 90 prisoners achieved bachelor passes. Thirteen attained a higher certificate of achievement.
KwaZulu-Natal education MEC Mbalenhle Frazer said the inmates’ academic achievement is a story of triumph over adversity, which should be celebrated.
“Past mistakes do not determine the future. What we’re seeing here is a true story of human endurance,” said Frazer.
Deputy Minister of Justice and Correctional Services Inkosi Phathekile Holomisa, KwaZulu-Natal police commissioner General Nhlanhla Mkhwanazi, national commissioner of correctional services Makgothi Thobakgale, and other senior public servants were among the high-ranking government officials present at the function.