Twenty-three years ago, Paul Evans was sentenced to hang and put on death row.
On Tuesday, prison officials strapped an electronic monitoring device to his ankle as he started a new chapter of freedom.
Evans, 44, was arrested for murder and robbery at the age of 18 and was sentenced three years later.
The demise of apartheid and termination of the death penalty resulted in Evans’s sentence being commuted to life imprisonment.
He received a second chance when the Department of Correctional Services chose him as one of the parolees to be fitted with the new monitoring device.
Evans was overwhelmed when he spoke about where his life was now compared with 23 years ago.
“I knew what my sentence would be and I was prepared to die. I also couldn’t live with myself for what I did.
“When Nelson Mandela took away the death penalty, it was a big adjustment.
“I had to change my thought pattern to spend at least 20 years in prison.”
Evans was denied parole on three occasions. His fourth attempt was successful and he became a day-parolee after serving 21 years and seven months of his life term.
As a day parolee, he is free to leave the correctional centre but has to sleep there. “I learnt a lot about my life, the cost of crime and what it meant to the people outside. I have no intention of coming back. It took me 12 years to realise there is life beyond prison and I met amazing people who helped rehabilitate me.
“This is an opportunity and I will grab it with both hands to lead a better life,” he said.
Evans studied sports psychology, electrical engineering and IT technology while he was incarcerated. He said he was looking for a job.
On Tuesday, Correctional Services Minister Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula launched the pilot project for the electronic monitoring system at the Drakenstein prison.
The department will run the project for the next 12 months at a cost of R6.5 million.
So far 108 parolees have been fitted with the ankle device and the department plans to fit another 150 parolees.
The device is clamped on to the parolee’s ankle, activated and linked to a GPS system within seconds.
A control room will monitor the parolee and an alarm will go off when curfews and conditions are violated.
Paedophiles, for example, will be restricted from going near places where children are present, such as schools.
The device must remain attached to the parolee at all times. If it is tampered with, an alarm will be activated.
The department’s director for supervision of parolees, Ronald Ntuli, said: “So far, the project has been successful and we can track parolees anytime, anywhere.
“The cost of the device is R118 a day compared to the cost of more than R300 a day to maintain a prisoner, so it also addresses overcrowding.”
Mapisa-Nqakula said she would receive regular reports on how the system was faring.
“There is a need for the department to build a community correctional system that will earn the respect of the judiciary and society.
“We are releasing people and some of them have committed serious crimes but the public can have confidence and feel safe that there is a monitoring system in place and should not feel intimidated that inmates are being released,” she said.
* The Minister of Justice and Constitutional Development, Jeff Radebe, has opened the first court building in the small farming community of Ashton. The court was completed in October 2010 at a cost of R7.6 million.