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South Africa to release 35,000 from crowded prisons

35,000 South African prisoners could be released, depending on an assessment, after President Jacob Zuma announced a special remission of sentence Friday.

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The president of South Africa, Jacob Zuma, looks on during the opening plenary, called Leaders Dialogue on Climate Change, of the seventh annual meeting of the Clinton Global Initiative on Sept. 20, 2011, in New York City. (Daniel Berehulak/AFP/Getty Images)

South Africa has announced Friday it will release up to 35,000 offenders to ease overcrowding in its prisons.

Police Minister Nathi Mthethwa said around 14,600 inmates will be released "conditionally or unconditionally," according to the Associated Press. More than 20,000 offenders on probation or parole who qualify to have their sentences cut will also benefit from the decision.

Prisoners declared violent criminals and those jailed for sexual, drug-related and weapons offenses will not be among those to benefit from the remissions of sentences, reported South Africa's Independent Online. President Jacob Zuma made the announcement to mark South Africa's 18th Freedom Day celebrations, which is the anniversary of Nelson Mandela winning the nation's first all-race elections in 1994. This is the first time Zuma has used the power given to him by the country's constitution to decrease sentences.

More from GlobalPost: Nelson Mandela archive, backed by Google, goes online

"The special remission...will see all sentenced inmates, probationers and parolees granted a six month remission of sentence...and an additional 12 months," Mthethwa said, according to South Africa's News24. "This will reduce the level of overcrowding in correctional centers from 34% to approximately 20%.

"The completion of a compulsory pre-release assessment and the attendance of...the program is a prerequisite before the conditional or unconditional release of offenders can take place," Mthethwa went on to explain.

http://www.globalpost.com/dispatch/news/regions/africa/south-africa/120428/south-africa-release-35000-crowded-prisons