Community service for prisoners comes to Windhoek

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New approach… The Namibian Correctional Services, in conjunction with the Ministry of Justice, has rolled out community service as an alternative to custodial sentences for less serious crimes.

Windhoek

The Namibian Correctional Services under the Ministry of Safety and Security is implementing community work as a form of punishment.

New Era learned recently that workers at Katutura Magistrate’s Court have started making room to accommodate Correctional Services staff, while some employees of Correctional Services are already stationed at Windhoek Magistrate’s Court to implement the process.

Chief public relations officer in the Ministry of Justice Master Penna said the stakeholders within the criminal justice system – which include staff in the Office of the Prosecutor General, Correctional Services, the police and the courts – are currently working on implementing community service sentences.

Penna said sentences to perform community service are not new. “They’ve been there, as they are authorised by the Criminal Procedure Act of 1977 in terms of Section 297. However, such provision of the law has not been fully implemented due to many challenges the system has been facing.

“This project of the full implementation of the community service orders started in 2006 as a pilot project in the northern regions, (Ohangwena, Oshana, Omusati, Opuwo, Tsumeb Grootfontein) and northeastern regions, Zambezi and the two Kavango regions. After the successful implementation of the programme in those mentioned areas it was decided to roll the same project out to the rest of other courts countrywide this year, starting with Windhoek.”

He explained that community service sentences do not apply to serious criminal offences, but only to offences deemed light by the court, that will not have a negative impact on society should the offender be released to do community work.

“Such offences may include, shoplifting, assault, traffic offences, malicious damage to property and any other non-serious crimes that in the eyes of the prosecutor and ultimately the court, the sentence of community service is more appropriate, given the circumstances of the crime the offender has been convicted of,” he said.

He said sentenced offenders found guilty of such offences will not be put in jail. Instead they will be assigned to identified institutions where they will serve their sentences by working for the benefit of the community, such as cleaning at hospitals, schools, offices, or carrying out any other work that may be assigned to them in terms of the community service orders imposed on such offenders by the courts.

“This is done under the supervision of Correctional Service officers in order to ensure the proper monitoring of these individuals. Offenders who qualify for such a sentence must have fixed residential addresses,” Penna told New Era.

The full implementation of community service orders is not only beneficial to convicts, but will benefit the entire society, as government will be able to spend money meant for feeding these prisoners whilst serving their sentences on other needs of society, he said.

The process is designed to manage offenders in the community so that they can continue to positively contribute to the wellbeing of their families and the general community, Correctional Services spokesperson Deputy Commissioner Eveline January said.

January explained that the one-year guideline remains the starting point. Any person sentenced to an effective prison sentence of one year or less is to be regarded as a non-serious offender.

Information to be considered when considering imposing community service orders includes: whether the accused has a fixed abode, and whether the accused has family dependents, as well as whether the accused is employed or is a first-time offender.

Community service orders (CSO) as a sentencing option started in 2006 and is currently implemented in the Zambezi, Kavango East and Kavango West regions, as well as in Oshana, Ohangwena, Omusati, Kunene and Oshikoto regions.

On March 1 the implementation of CSO was extended to the Windhoek magisterial district courts, January said.

Chief public relations officer in the Ministry of Justice Master Penna
Chief public relations officer in the Ministry of Justice Master Penna

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