Oscar Pistorius’s request to leave prison and serve the rest of his sentence under house arrest was granted by a parole board today.
A lawyer for the family of Reeva Steenkamp, who was shot dead by Pistorius in 2013, revealed that he would leave prison next Tuesday.
The athlete, now 28, has been in prison since October last year, when he was sentenced to five years for culpable homicide.
Under South African law, offenders sentenced to five years or less are eligible to be considered for parole after serving one sixth of their sentence in custody. For Pistorius, this was after ten months.
However, the justice ministry initially blocked his release in August, arguing that the decision to release him was made before the ten-month period was over.
The Department of Correctional Services today confirmed that Pistorius would be released next week and remain under correctional supervision from 20 October 2015 until 20 October 2019.
“The Parole Board has also given the offender his correctional supervision conditions, which include the directives of the Parole Review Board in respect of continued psychotherapy and prohibitions in line with the Fire Arms Control Act,” it added.
In order to reach its decision, the parole board considered Pistorius’s profile report, submissions from the victim’s family and the directives of the Parole Review Board, which has been reviewing the case.
The lawyer for Steenkamp’s family said nothing had changed for the victim’s parents June and Barry. “Nothing will bring Reeva back,” she said. “They are not surprised at all by this announcement. They expected this.”
Will Pistorius carry out community service?
Ahead of sentencing last year, Pistorius’s defence lawyers argued that he should serve a community-based sentence, such as 16 hours of domestic cleaning a month. Annette Vergeer, a probation officer who acted as a witness in Pistorius’s sentencing hearing, suggested he could even work with disabled children. She went into detail about a Gateway programme that helps children in other countries such as Mozambique. However, offenders are typically banned from leaving their ministerial district let alone the country.
One of Pistorius’s lawyers told The Sunday Times in May that his client is still interested in working with children when he is released from prison. Rohan Kruger, who works on the defence team with lead counsel Barry Roux, told the newspaper: “Oscar is keen to become involved in assisting children in whatever opportunity will present.”
Will Pistorius return to athletics?
According to South Africa’s Centre for the Study of Violence and Reconciliation, correctional supervision aims to provide a means of rehabilitation within the community and allows – even encourages – the offender to be employed. The International Paralympic Committee has said Pistorius, known as the Blade Runner, could resume his career once he has served his sentence, and the South African Olympic Committee has confirmed that it has no regulations barring athletes with a criminal record.
Where will Pistorius live?
Pistorius looks likely to live under “virtual house arrest” at his uncle’s home in the Waterkloof suburb of Pretoria. The Parole Review Board has said that he must be “subjected to psychotherapy in order to address criminogenic factors of the crime he committed”.
However, his relative freedom could be “short-lived” if prosecutors are able to persuade the Supreme Court of Appeal next month that his verdict should be upgraded to murder, a conviction that carries a minimum of 15 years in prison, with no opportunity for house arrest.