Former Olympic runner Oscar Pistorius will undergo a second parole hearing this week, giving him another opportunity for early release from prison. The South African Department of Corrections announced this decision after acknowledging that Pistorius had been incorrectly ruled ineligible for parole in March.
Pistorius, a globally renowned double-amputee athlete, made history by competing in the 2012 London Olympics using carbon-fiber running blades. However, he has been incarcerated since late 2014 due to his involvement in the shooting death of his girlfriend, Reeva Steenkamp. Initially convicted of culpable homicide, a charge similar to manslaughter, Pistorius was found guilty of shooting Steenkamp multiple times through a closed toilet cubicle door in his Pretoria home during the early hours of Valentine’s Day 2013.
Subsequently, his conviction was upgraded to murder, leading to a sentence of 13 years and five months in prison after a series of appeals by prosecutors. In South Africa, serious offenders must serve at least half of their sentence before becoming eligible for parole.
Pistorius’ parole eligibility has been complicated by prosecutorial appeals, initially contesting his culpable homicide conviction and then challenging what they deemed a lenient six-year sentence for murder.
In 2017, the Supreme Court of Appeal ruled that Pistorius should serve the country’s minimum 15-year sentence for murder but considered the one year and seven months he had already served for culpable homicide. This calculation error led Pistorius to believe he was eligible for parole in August 2024 when, in fact, he became eligible in March due to the time served while his murder sentence was being appealed.
To address this oversight, Pistorius’ legal team brought the case to South Africa’s Constitutional Court. The decision to hold another parole hearing for Pistorius is essentially an acknowledgment of the appellate court’s mistake.
It’s important to note that Pistorius is not guaranteed early release; a parole board will evaluate multiple factors, including his conduct in prison, disciplinary record, mental health, and the likelihood of reoffending. Potential outcomes include full parole or day parole, which would allow him to live and work in the community but require nighttime imprisonment.
Once celebrated as one of the world’s most inspiring athletes, Pistorius earned numerous Paralympic titles on his running blades despite being born with a congenital condition that led to the amputation of his legs below the knee as an infant. He also made history by becoming the first double amputee to compete in the Olympics.
However, his life took a tragic turn when he killed Reeva Steenkamp a few months after the London Olympics. During his murder trial, Pistorius claimed that he shot Steenkamp, a 29-year-old model, by accident, believing she was a dangerous intruder hiding in his bathroom during the night.
Pistorius will celebrate his 37th birthday on Wednesday, and he has been out of the public eye for nearly a decade. Occasional glimpses of his prison life have emerged, including an injury sustained in a 2017 altercation with another inmate over a prison telephone. In 2016, he received treatment for wrist injuries, which his family denied were self-inflicted and attributed to a fall in his cell.