Oscar Pistorius, the former Olympic runner who was convicted for the shooting death of his girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp, will have another chance at parole. In March, Pistorius was incorrectly ruled ineligible for early release from prison. The South African department of corrections announced that a parole board will reassess Pistorius’ case this week to determine his suitability for social integration.
Pistorius, a renowned double-amputee athlete who made history by competing in the 2012 London Olympics on carbon-fiber running blades, has been incarcerated since late 2014. Initially convicted of culpable homicide, equivalent to manslaughter, for shooting Steenkamp through a closed toilet cubicle door in his home on Valentine’s Day 2013, Pistorius’ conviction was later upgraded to murder after multiple appeals by prosecutors. He was ultimately sentenced to 13 years and five months in prison, with the requirement to serve at least half of his sentence before becoming eligible for parole.
The appeals made by prosecutors complicated Pistorius’ case and parole eligibility. They challenged his culpable homicide conviction and a subsequent six-year sentence for murder, considering it unacceptably lenient. In 2017, the Supreme Court of Appeal ruled that Pistorius must serve South Africa’s minimum 15-year sentence for murder, taking into account the time he had already served for culpable homicide. However, an error occurred when the court failed to include a period Pistorius spent in prison during the appeal of his murder sentence. This mistake means that Pistorius was actually eligible for parole in March, despite being informed during his first hearing that he would have to wait until August 2024.
Pistorius’ lawyers escalated the case to the Constitutional Court, resulting in a new parole hearing being scheduled. The decision to grant Pistorius another chance at parole acknowledges the error made by the appeal court.
Nevertheless, Pistorius is not guaranteed early release. The parole board will consider several factors, including his behavior and disciplinary record in prison, his mental health, and the likelihood of reoffending. If granted parole, Pistorius may be released on full parole or placed on day parole, which would allow him to live and work in the community but require him to return to prison at night.
Once celebrated as one of the world’s most inspiring athletes, Pistorius was born with a congenital condition that led to the amputation of his legs below the knee. Despite this, he excelled in track and won multiple Paralympic titles using his running blades. Known as the “Blade Runner,” Pistorius gained international fame before the tragic incident that ended Steenkamp’s life. During his murder trial, Pistorius claimed that he mistakenly shot Steenkamp, believing she was an intruder in his bathroom.
On Wednesday, Pistorius will celebrate his 37th birthday. However, he has been mostly absent from the public eye for almost a decade, with only occasional glimpses of his life in prison. In 2017, he sustained an injury during a confrontation with another inmate over a prison telephone. A year earlier, he received treatment for wrist injuries, which his family denied were self-inflicted and attributed to a fall in his cell.
The parole hearing on Friday will determine whether Pistorius will be granted early release, providing him with a chance to reintegrate into society.