When's The Earliest Oscar Pistorius Could Leave Prison? Just Ten Months In

Well, there you have it. After nearly 18 months following the shooting death of Reeva Steenkamp a trial that took legal spectacle to whole new levels, ex-Olympic sprinter Oscar Pistorius has finally received his punishment: five years in prison, as handed down by Judge Thokozile Masipa in Pretoria, South Africa Tuesday. But as anybody who follows these cases knows, there are often ways to cut a prison stint short, which raises the question — despite Pistorius' five-year sentence, how long will he serve in reality?

As it turns out, this is a very significant question, and could have huge implications for exactly how Pistorius' next half-decade of life plays out. That's because a sentence at or less than five years qualifies him for a potentially far better deal in the short term — according to the Mail and Guardian, he could be allowed to transfer to house arrest after serving just one-sixth of his time, meaning Pistorius could serve just ten months behind bars for Steenkamp's death.

As detailed by The New York Times, this isn't necessarily a slam dunk, however — they cited South African legal observers who say the process of early house arrest transfer still demands a negotiate process with correctional authorities. But all the same, that's a potential outcome which few people probably expected when Pistorius was convicted of culpable homicide for killing Steenkamp — 10 months in prison, and another 50 months cooped up at home?

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If this strikes you as a rather lax arrangement, it's worth noting that Masipa was contending with an admittedly difficult choice. South Africa's prisons have something of a reputation for abysmal conditions, which could pose unique risks to Pistorius as a double-amputee. For what it's worth, neither the defense nor Steenkamp's family appear headed for an appeal — the slain model's family states that they're "satisfied" with the ruling, according to the Times, despite it falling considerably short of the murder charge which prosecutors had fought for, which would have carried a 25 year sentence.

Basically, on its surface Masipa's decision struck a balance between the requests of both sides — the defense had desired Pistorius' sentence to be free of any actual prison time, to be carried out purely under house arrest instead, while the prosecution pushed for a full ten years. If Pistorius is indeed able to secure a transfer out of prison and into house arrest after just 10 months of his sentence, however, it's not hard to see which side is actually coming out on top.

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As has been true of basically everything throughout this trial, the news of Pistorius' sentencing has engrossed and polarized many South Africans. Reuters quoted a Johannesburg-base taxi driver, Johannes Mbatha, who expressed a familiar brand of outrage about the decision, and how it reflects on his society.

They are only scaring him with this sentence. It shows our society hasn't transformed. If it was a black man he would have never received such a light sentence. But that's how things are in South Africa.

Things are already underway for Pistorius — he was taken away in a police van to begin serving his sentence following his departure from court, and he'll be spending the night in a jail cell tonight. According to the Mail and Guardian, it's believed that Pistorius will be held in Pretoria's Kgosi Mampuru II prison.

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