Early release process for inmates clarified

March 15, 2024 2:08 pm

[File Photo]

The Fiji Human Rights and Anti-Discrimination Commission, Chairperson has clarified that in the absence of a Parole Board, serving prisoners can still have an early release through sentence remission.

Pravesh Sharma says the mechanism for early release has been highlighted in two landmark judgments by the Supreme Court in 2023.

He says the Supreme Court’s clarification sets a correct formula in place to calculate the early release based on inmate’s right to receive a one-third remission of their sentence.

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The Chair says while section 49 of the Correction Services Act 2006 provides for the establishment of a Parole Board, one has never been set up.

He says under section 27(2) of the 2006 Act, an inmate must be given a release date for the purposes of initial clarification.

He says the release date must be calculated on the basis of a remission of one-third of any sentence of imprisonment exceeding one month.

Sharma says under section 28(1), the entitlement in the period of remission is dependent on the good behaviour of the inmate and may be forfeited but later restored.

He says the practice of the Fiji Correction Services for some years has been to apply the entitlement to remission only to the sentence remaining to be served after the non-parole period has been completed.

The Chair says the Supreme Court has clarified the position relating to remission and early release of inmates in the cases of Kreimanis v State and Mohammed Ismail v The State, that all inmates have a right to receive a one-third remission of the sentence not taking into account the non-parole period.

He says if an inmate has been given a non-parole period, then the computation of the one-third remission still applies but if the non-parole period exceeds two-thirds of a prison sentence, then the inmate must serve until the end of the non-parole period but must be released immediately at the end of the non-parole period.

He says for example, if a person has been sentenced to 12 years imprisonment, then under section 27 of the 2006 Act, that inmate would be entitled to a remission of 4 years, being one-third of the full term of 12 years.

Sharma adds that in ordinary circumstances the inmate would be released for good behaviour after serving 8 years.

However, if the inmate was given a sentence of 12 years with a non-parole period of 9 years, then that inmate must serve the compulsory 9 years and then must be released at the end of the non-parole period of 9 years.