Oscar Pistorius: what will he do when he gets out of jail?

Jul 10, 2015

Oscar Pistorius due to be released from jail after serving ten months for killing Reeva Steenkamp

Pistorius looks likely to be released from Pretoria's Kgosi Mampuru II Prison next month but he will not return home a free man.

South Africa's Department of Correctional Services has recommended the athlete for "correctional supervision" from 21 August – exactly ten months after he was sentenced for culpable homicide for killing his girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp.

Pistorius fired four shots at Steenkamp through his locked toilet door on Valentine's Day in 2013, but has always claimed that he believed her to be an intruder.

While many have expressed outrage that he is being released so early into his five-year prison sentence, Kelly Phelps, a senior lecturer in criminal justice at the University of Cape Town, insists he has not been given a "get-out-of-jail-free" card. "Punishment is not terminated but instead meted out in the community rather than in prison," she says.

An offender sentenced to correctional supervision remains under the control of the Department of Correctional Services until the sentence expires. The conditions of his release are yet to be made public, but they typically include a daily period of house arrest, compulsory treatment programmes, abstinence from alcohol or drugs and community service. Offenders may also be given regular support sessions with social workers.

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. Last year, his agent Peet van Zyl told The Guardian that they would "sit down and take stock" after the sentencing hearing.

Where will Pistorius live?

The Daily Telegraph's Aislinn Laing, who reported on much of the murder trial, suggests Pistorius is likely to live under "virtual house arrest" at his uncle's home in the Waterkloof suburb of Pretoria. "He may also be told to continue to have mental health checks after a psychiatric evaluation before he was sentenced found him to be suffering from serious depression and post-traumatic stress disorder and a suicide risk," says Laing.

However, she points out that his relative freedom could be "short-lived" if prosecutors are able to persuade the Supreme Court of Appeal in November that his verdict should be upgraded to murder, a conviction that carries a minimum of 15 years in prison.

Oscar Pistorius: is ten months in jail enough for taking a life?

9 June

Oscar Pistorius's anticipated early release from prison has been described as a "slap in the face" for the grieving parents of Reeva Steenkamp.

The athlete, who was sentenced to five years in jail in October last year, is likely to be freed on 21 August after serving just ten months for shooting his girlfriend through a locked toilet door on Valentine's Day in 2013. He is expected to be released and placed under house arrest following a recommendation from South Africa's correctional services department, reports the BBC.

In a letter to the parole board, Reeva's parents said they had forgiven Pistorius but insisted that "incarceration of ten months for taking a life is simply not enough". They added that his release would not send out the "proper message" nor "serve as the deterrent it should".

Commentators from across the world have expressed a similar view. Writing in the Herald Sun, Wendy Tuohy, says the "obscenely" early release "cannot be called justice". Describing it as a "slap in the face" for Reeva's grieving parents, she adds: "You wonder if fame and connections count for more than a woman's life."

In The Guardian, Joan Smith claims the early release "speaks volumes" about attitudes towards male violence in South Africa. "In a country where gender inequality is entrenched, this is how easy it is for a well-known man to usurp the role of victim," she writes.

But South Africa's Daily Maverick newspaper says that "procedurally, there is nothing untoward about Pistorius spending only ten months of this sentence behind bars". This course of events was "virtually guaranteed" from the moment Judge Thokozile Masipa sentenced the athlete to five years in jail for culpable homicide, says the newspaper.

The country's Criminal Procedure Act and the Correctional Services Act allows for an offender to serve "only one sixth of his/her sentence in custody" when the sentence does not exceed five years.

Diane Bass, a criminal defence attorney in Los Angeles, told CBS News: "I don't think this is anything to do with his celebrity status. It has to do with the fact that the parole boards says that he has been behaving well and unless anything changes they are the ones recommending that he be released after ten months."

Nevertheless, Pistorius could find himself back behind bars for a minimum of 15 years if prosecutors win their appeal to escalate his conviction from culpable homicide to murder. They are expected to have their case heard in South Africa's Supreme Court of Appeal in November. The state has until 17 August to submit court papers outlining its argument. Then Pistorius's defence team has until 17 September to submit a response.

Last September, Masipa ruled that the prosecution had not provided enough evidence to prove beyond reasonable doubt that Pistorius foresaw that he might kill somebody when he fired four shots into his toilet door. Therefore, Pistorius was cleared of murder and convicted on the lesser charge of culpable homicide.

However, the prosecution team – led by Gerrie Nel – claimed Masipa had "erred" on the conviction and described the sentence as "shockingly light".

Oscar Pistorius 'likely to be freed as early as 21 August'

8 June

Oscar Pistorius is likely to be freed on 21 August after serving just ten months for killing his girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp, according to reports.

Pistorius was convicted of culpable homicide last September after shooting his girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp four times through a locked toilet door on Valentine's Day in 2013.

He was sentenced to five years in October last year, but is expected to be released on house arrest as early as 21 August following a recommendation from South Africa's correctional services department, reports the BBC.

One of his family members, who did not want to be named, said: "Oscar will be released on parole by the end of August."

Prosecutors, who have launched an appeal to escalate the conviction from culpable homicide to the more serious charge of murder, are expected to have their case heard in South Africa's Supreme Court of Appeal in November.

The state has until 17 August to submit court papers outlining its argument. Then Pistorius's defence team has until 17 September to submit a response.

Last September, Masipa ruled that the prosecution had not provided enough evidence to prove beyond reasonable doubt that Pistorius foresaw that he might kill somebody when he fired four shots into his toilet door. Therefore, Pistorius was cleared of murder and convicted on the lesser charge of culpable homicide.

However, the prosecution team – led by Gerrie Nel – claimed Masipa had "erred" on the conviction and described the sentence as "shockingly light".

 

Oscar Pistorius 'should not be freed from prison in summer'

13 May

Oscar Pistorius should not be freed from prison this summer, his victim's mother has said, amid claims that the athlete wants to work with children on his release.

Pistorius was convicted of culpable homicide last September after shooting his girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp four times through a locked toilet door on Valentine's Day in 2013.

He was sentenced to five years, but could be released on house arrest as early as August.

Reeva's mother June has said it is not a good idea to let him back into society so quickly. "He shot my daughter through that door where she had no space to move or defend herself. One of the bullets blew her brains out. It is disgusting what he did to her... ten months is just not enough," she told South African newspaper The Citizen.

June Steenkamp questioned what message would be sent out to the country about domestic abuse if Pistorius was released, warning: "Justice must be done, otherwise there will be chaos."

Her comments came after one of Pistorius's lawyers told The Sunday Times that his client wants to work 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."

A Correctional Supervision and Parole Board will decide whether Pistorius should be released and stipulate the conditions under which he would have to serve the rest of his sentence. Kruger said this is likely to include a course of anger management, visits to church and a ban on alcohol and drugs. The board is also likely to determine where Pistorius should live and the scope of his contact with others.

Meanwhile, prosecutors have launched an appeal to escalate Pistorius's conviction from culpable homicide to murder.

Another lawyer speaking to the Sunday Times said Pistorius had been left "utterly penniless" and that his defence team had not been paid for two months.

 

Oscar Pistorius: Judge Masipa dismisses defence appeal

13 March

Judge Thokozile Masipa has dismissed a request from Oscar Pistorius's defence team to argue that she was wrong to allow the state to appeal his conviction.

The athlete was found guilty of culpable homicide and sentenced to five years in prison last year for shooting dead his girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp on 14 February 2013.

In December, prosecutors – who want Pistorius to be convicted on the more serious charge of murder – claimed Judge Masipa was mistaken in her application of the law and that a different court could reach a different decision. She granted them leave to appeal his conviction, but not his sentence.

Today the defence asked Judge Masipa to agree that this decision might have been wrong. They said the culpable homicide verdict was reached on matters of fact, which cannot be the basis for an appeal.

However, prosecutor Gerrie Nel – who insists his appeal is based on matters of law, not fact – said there was no provision in law for the court even to hear the defence's application, let alone to grant it.

Judge Masipa agreed with the state, saying that there was "really nothing new" in what the defence had submitted and that her court was not the right place to hear the application.

This means the case will now go to the supreme court of appeal, where five judges will hear from both sides.

Attorney Marius du Toit told South Africa's eNCA news channel that the defence's application was not an "exercise in futility" and was more about defence lawyer Barry Roux "dotting his Is and crossing his Ts".

He suggested that, in light of today's application from Roux, the supreme court of appeal will not be able to refuse to hear arguments on the grounds that the defence did not attempt to appeal against the state application.

Pistorius and his family were not in court.

 

Oscar Pistorius allowed hugs, jewellery and radio in prison

17 February

Prison bosses in South Africa have relaxed the terms of Oscar Pistorius's imprisonment, allowing him to wear jewellery, hug visitors and spend more money in the jail's tuck shop, according to reports.

The former athlete, who was sentenced to five years in prison for culpable homicide last year, has been upgraded from a Category B prisoner to Category A, which comes with a raft of new privileges.

His phone call allowance has increased from 6 to 24 calls, and he is now able to own a radio and take up a hobby.

Bosses at Kgosi Mampuru II Prison in Pretoria made the upgrade after they decided he poses "little threat to security" and comes two years after he shot his girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp on Valentine's Day in 2013, reports the Daily Mail.

A family source told the newspaper: "This has boosted him a lot. He has been very low in prison, although he seems to be getting all the support from the prison authorities that he needs."

The strict "no-touching" policy during visits will be lifted and he will no longer be separated from his visitors by glass. Visits have also been extended from two hours a month to three hours a month.

His allowance for the prison tuck shop, which sells chocolate, fizzy drinks and toiletries, has risen from R100 to R150 (£5.60 to £8.40).

Since he was sentenced four months ago, Pistorius has reportedly completed a number of rehabilitation programmes, including a course on coping with emotions.

He is said to share the use of a running machine and exercise bike with suspected crime boss Radovan Krejcir, who is on trial for fraud, robbery and torture, and was charged with a fresh count of murder last week.

South Africa's National Prosecuting Authority, which is due to appeal against Pistorius's acquittal for murder, is waiting for a date at the Supreme Court of Appeal in Bloemfontein where arguments will be heard by a panel of three to five judges.

 

Oscar Pistorius appeal: state can challenge murder acquittal

10 December

Oscar Pistorius could yet be convicted of murder after Judge Masipa today granted the prosecution leave to appeal against the athlete's acquittal for the murder of Reeva Steenkamp.

The state was not given permission to appeal against the five-year sentence handed down to the athlete, nor to challenge his acquittal on the charge of possessing illegal ammunition.

The case will now be heard in South Africa's Supreme Court of Appeal in Bloemfontein.

The issue at the heart of the prosecution's argument was Judge Thokozile Masipa's application of "dolus eventualis", a legal term for when the perpetrator foresees the possibility of his action causing death and persists regardless.

In September, Masipa ruled that the prosecution had not provided enough evidence to prove beyond reasonable doubt that Pistorius foresaw that he might kill somebody when he fired four shots into his toilet door. Therefore, Pistorius was cleared of murder and convicted on the lesser charge of culpable homicide.

Today, Masipa said prosecutor Gerrie Nel had persuaded her that there were still questions on points of law to be answered.

However, she was not convinced that Pistorius's five-year prison sentence was "shockingly inappropriate", as Nel had claimed, nor that another court would come to a different conclusion on the sentence.

A spokesman for the National Prosecuting Authority told reporters outside court: "Our argument was that [Pistorius] should have been convicted of murder, and then would have been sentenced to a minimum sentence of 15 years. That is, of course, what we would like to happen. It isn't about winning – it's about justice."

The Supreme Court of Appeal sits in panels of three or five judges, depending on the nature of the appeal. The senior judge presides, but the decision of the majority is the decision of the court.

Prosecutors told reporters that things can "take time" at the appeal stage and Pistorius could even be out of jail by the time the appeal is scheduled.

           

More about Oscar Pistorius:

Oscar Pistorius sentenced to five years in prisonOscar Pistorius sentencing: as it happenedOscar Pistorius was 'on phone to ex' on eve of shootingOscar Pistorius: 'there is still a missing link' Oscar Pistorius guilty of culpable homicide - but not murderOscar Pistorius: How long might he face in jailWhat is Oscar Pistorius's defence and can it succeedOscar Pistorius involved in nightclub fightOscar Pistorius: some defence witnesses refused to testifyOscar Pistorius judge's concern over mysterious missing cordOscar Pistorius: seven key quotes from the murder trialSix questions for Judge Masipa Family denies athlete took acting lessonsReeva 'had no time to scream'Pistorius told: 'You are getting deeper into trouble'Pistorius describes night he shot Reeva SteenkampPolice release photos of crime sceneFive questions Pistorius will need to answerPistorius used bullets that cause 'maximum wounding'

 

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