Rwanda Civil Society Organizations have requested the enactment of a law that allows for the administration of punishments which allow for convicts to serve community service other than sending every offender to prison.
The request was made during a meeting that brought together lawyers last week where civil society organizations asked the revision of laws and other various programs helping to reduce the number of convicts transferred to prisons and embrace another punishment platform.
Frank Mugisha in charge of programs at the Rwanda Legal Aid Forum said “Laws need reforms, probation has to be integrated in our laws and remove the way some punishments are administered.”
How does Probation work?
Frank Mugisha has told IGIHE that probation is a community service like others but which has to be executed differently from existing ones.
“If a person commits a particular crime, he may do community service with permanent supervisors. He may be asked to clean the road, clear gardens and waste deposits. It is different from other community service where different convicts are gathered together for particular activities,” he said.
“A person given probation stays at his/her residence and wakes up early for community service assisted by supervisors who have to evaluate the performance. The supervisor also advises the convict on reintegration,” he added.
Mugisha said the probation officer who supervises the convict keeps providing advice and assessing whether the person’s behaviors are getting transformed. The punishment may be extended or reduced depending on an assessment by the probation officer.
Mugisha explained that such punishment platforms are applied in other countries where a probation team is delegated to follow up punishments to local government levels. He however explained that volunteers can intervene sometimes to reduce expenses. These volunteers are supposed to be trained by the probation committee before starting duties where they closely collaborate with the court.
Such requests for particular community service are meant to reduce on prison crowding especially for light offenders. The Minister of justice, Johnston Busingye highlighted that the government of Rwanda knows the intensity of having a large number of prisoners including the wide budget and other health related issues but said some challenges of applying community services do exist.
“We still have people perceiving community service punishments as useless,” he said.
Minister Busingye shared that over 80% of people serving time put on probation escape justice which is another challenge.
“I want you provide tangible reasons which I will take to parliament requesting these reforms,” he said.