Our courts will also have manageable numbers of case loads assuming that Police Jamii is at its best, paralegals working and Restorative Justice being operational as directed recently by Chief Justice, Othman Chande. Could that be my wishful ideas for the Vision 2025 and see those things happening at the end of that year along side being a country of middle income economy?
God knows! Probably this could also be the solution which President Jakaya Kikwete has been looking for. I have been following up his speeches whenever he was talking about Prisons, he would reveal his concern on the plight of prisoners who are jam-packed in our institutions to the extent of likening them with “mzungu wanne” syndrome.
Just recently President Kikwete took time to remind judges and judicial officers to make use of Community Service Orders to deserving offenders who have committed non-serious offences. He advised these judges recently in their Conference when they were observing “Law Day in Tanzania.” The judges befittingly chose their motto to be “Alternative punishment and its benefits to society.”
The President decided to chip in and called for even the public to change their mind sets into believing that jail is the only punishment to the crime but should understand that there are several alternatives including Community Service where offenders are required to work for free on community public work. Our criminal justice is premised on a culture that has developed over many years that imprisonment has been regarded as the only credible form of penal sanction.
This culture stems from the erroneous belief that if the offender has not been sent to jail then justice is not done or is not seen to have been done. Regrettably this belief is held even by some judicial officers. The result has been that even persons convicted on offences generally regarded as non-serious end up being imprisoned contributing to overcrowding in our correctional institutions. It is interesting that this otherwise controversial motto on “alternative to imprisonment” came from the horse mouth, the judges who have mostly been accused of negating the use this law on Community Service Orders.
On the other side, the Community has also been reluctant in making use of these offenders probably not much sensitization has been done to them as such the public is ignorant of the law. Apparently the delayed new Tanzania’s Prison Service Policy in one of its core values believes that the majority of offenders can be dealt with effectively in the social community by means of non-custodial correctional programmes; imprisonment should be used with restraint.
With manageable number of inmates, Prisons can effectively conduct its correctional programmes through Risk and Case Management Strategy that adheres to psycho-social and behavioral aspects of rehabilitation as opposed to what is being done now! For those with keen interest on the Tanzania’s judicial matters will agree with me that the two top officials of the judicial system, the Chief Justice and Judge President have been in the forefront in embracing reforms that are geared to bringing faster justice for all.
Last June, Judge President Fakih Jundu was in the news decrying on the budgetary constraints delaying criminal trials in this country. This has a terrible impact in their constitutional obligation of dispensing justice to the people as the shortfall creates backlog of pending cases. They have 1,105 courts served by as few as 760 magistrates. Last September, Chief Justice Othman
Chande while addressing the stakeholders meeting expressed also his concern over the current arrangement in which primary courts are excluded from Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) system leading to piling up of cases in the country.
And just recently he has again urged his judicial officers to make use of the Community Service Orders to deserving offenders in order to ease congestion in prisons. Overcrowding has negative effects upon inmates as they struggle to compete over the limited resources, making them to be more aggressive exposed to high rates of illness. This, above all is a negation to the prisoner’s rehabilitation hence increased the high rates of recidivism therefore rising of the crime rate.
Penal Reforms are very necessary to the whole criminal justice system, starting from Judiciary, Police to Prisons if we need to address these challenges. The effectiveness of criminal justice system is gauged from both the crime and recidivism rates therefore a holistic approach is required for an effective and responsive criminal justice system. We need to have an integrated criminal justice system that can sit and plan together not on gentleman’s agreement but should be a constitutional obligation.
Our criminal justice system does not seem to share important criminogenic information! Parole Board requires as much inform as Police and Prison does. However, it seems the releasing prisoners on parole are being done on simple reasoning on their behavior without proper assessment of their criminogenic factors arising from their correctional plans.
The parole system in this country is regarded as a way of reducing overcrowding rather than being a vehicle for offender’s gradual controlled release to the community with support and supervision for their social reintegration. Let our criminal justice system have a common approach in dealing with crime. Crime cannot be punished away by mechanical inept methods but can be managed intelligently through such measures as stated in my dream.
Research tells us that the more prevalent recidivism is in a country, the greater the crime rate is and the more prisons are overcrowded. Therefore overcrowding and recidivism can effectively be addressed by having an integrated criminal justice system that believes on alternative to imprisonment.