February 11, 2005

Community service for prisoners introduced

The government has introduced a programme in a move to decongest prisons, under which convicts jailed for periods up to three years may have their sentences suspended by performing community services. ," According to Omari Mapuri, the minister for home affairs, the programme had already taken effect and eligible prisoners were to begin community service under a pilot project in six of 21 regions in mainland Tanzania. The semi-autonomous Zanzibar has a separate penal and reformatory system. As the minister further noted, community service would involve unpaid work for the benefit of the community, for a period to be fixed by the court but not exceeding the term of imprisonment. The work might include maintenance of public roads, afforestation, environmental conservation, water conservation and repair of public schools, hospitals and other institutions. "It could also include delivering services at orphanages, cleaning and manual work as well as specialist or professional services for the benefit of the community," he added. Moreover, Mapuri informed that there were about 45.000 inmates in Tanzania's jails. "These facilities were meant for only 20.000 prisoners but they are handling double the capacity," he said. Half of the inmates were remand prisoners awaiting the conclusion of their cases in different courts. Kenya, Malawi and Zimbabwe also have similar programmes of community work. (Rts)

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