There was joy and excitement at Pollsmoor Prison on Monday as 28 women and 60 juvenile males were released as part of President Jacob Zuma’s early remission programme.
The group were the first to be released from Pollsmoor as part of the 10-week release schedule.
Most of the 28 women were serving short sentences for theft, but many said that they were back in prison because they had broken their parole conditions.
The group of women squeezed into a small reception office, laughing, screaming and jumping around with excitement as their releases were processed.
One woman shouted: “Never, never again.”
Natasha Swartz could only say that she was “excited” to be released before she was shoved out of the way by other women wanting to process their releases.
Swartz was serving an additional two-month sentence for breaking her parole conditions on a previous sentence for theft.
Valerie Bricks, who was serving a sentence for housebreaking and theft, was also among the group with her four-month-old son Christiano, who was with her in prison.
Shari-Lee Jansen, 23, from Eerste River, said she had learnt her lesson and would not be coming back to prison.
She broke her parole conditions for a shoplifting sentence of 14 months.
“It’s hard being without my family and not being able to do what I want to when I want to, but I coped.
“Some days were bad when I really missed my family, and you feel as if you want to run through the walls. There were some difficult days and I felt bad for my parents because this was hard for them,” she said.
The remission programme was announced by Zuma on Freedom Day and was the first time the president exercised his prerogative to free prisoners.
A blanket six-month remission was given to all prisoners, while a further 12 months was granted to inmates who are serving for non-violent crimes.
More than 14 600 inmates will be released in the next few weeks and a further 20 855 on parole and probation will be freed early.
The remissions were announced as a bid to alleviate prison overcrowding and the programme is set to reduce overcrowding from 34 percent to about 20 percent.