Give non-custodial sentence to petty offenders- NCRC says

NAIROBI: The National Crime Research Centre is calling for improved utilization of non-custodial sentences to all first time petty offenders as a long term method of dealing with crime in the country.

The state crime research agency says besides saving wastage of public funds on maintaining thousands of offenders in prisons, community-based sentences have long term benefits including reconciliation, rehabilitation and reintegration of accused while assisting in maintaining family ties.

The agency made a revelation as a report carried out in parts of lower eastern province indicated that 94 percent of those sentenced to prisons for less than three years were actually petty offenders who would have deserved alternative sentencing.

"Contrary to common belief that short prison sentences and fines can deter crime, community based sentences like sweeping city streets and even washing public toilets or cutting grass in public places can be embarrassing," said NCRC director John Oriri Onyango.

Onyango said those involved in the criminal justice system especially at courts and correctional or probation levels must be sensitized on importance of community service orders and be given proper training on offender supervision and management.

Majority of magistrates interviewed in parts of lower Eastern Kenya where NCRC carried out a survey indicated non-custodial sentences were working effectively.

A survey carried out since January 2012 to December 2014 indicated a total of 8424 petty offenders were placed under the programme.

However, NCRC regretted that actual admission into various prisons in Meru, Tharaka Nithi and Isiolo regions indicated that 94 percent of those behind bars were petty offenders serving less than three years.

Most of those jailed were either arrested for being drunk and disorderly, creating disturbance, selling alcohol without licences, creating disturbance or stealing.

The study was funded by DFID-UK through Penal Reforms International with NCRC providing technical research component in a two year survey dubbed "Excellence in Training on Rehabilitation in Africa (Extra) Project."

Ex-offenders, probation and community service officers, judges, magistrates, security officers prosecutors, prison officers, members of the public were interviewed during the survey.

Prison congestionNational Crime Research Centre