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Taskforce recommends inmates who have reformed earn early freedom

NATIONAL
By Kamau Muthoni | July 7th 2021
Inmates work at Shimo La Tewa [Elvis Ogina, Standard]

A taskforce formed to review criminal laws recommended that convicts be released from prison early if they are deemed to have reformed.

Following the Francis Muruatetu judgement by the Supreme Court, the team formed on May 26, 2017, and chaired by Secretary of Justice and Constitutional Affairs Maryann Njau, was tasked with looking into the entire penal law, with its report forming the basis of how crime would be punished. Yesterday, Chief Justice Martha Koome noted that the delay in handing back the report contributed to a confusion, with lower courts adopting their own interpretation on how to deal with convicts jailed over capital and sex offences.

She also noted that the taskforce went beyond the Supreme Court’s judgement. “We note that the other recommendations in the Taskforce report go beyond the terms of the orders of December 14, 2017, and deal, for example, with matters that are in the legislative province of Parliament or in the courts’ exclusive jurisdiction and judicial discretion,” Koome observed.

In its report, handed to Koome’s predecessor David Maraga in 2019, the taskforce recommended a parole system where offenders serving long sentences are granted freedom after serving a number of years in jail. They reported that death should be left for rarest of rare cases involving intentional and aggravated acts of killing.

But because the country has no national parole board to date, the report cannot be implemented.

“The taskforce sat, they did their report and it was handed to the Chief Justice. It is up to the CJ to give the multi-sector team the way ahead. The AG handed the report,” the AG stated.

According to the recommendations, only criminal masterminds and those who have committed aggravated crimes should be handed a jail term without the option of an early release. The report read that the conviction regime would include a prisoner serving between 15 and 30 years before being considered for parole.

It suggests that an offender must report to their parole officer at specified times and place, live at a specified location or with a specified person (for example, a parent), avoid taking or abusing alcohol or drugs, avoid contact with a particular person or persons (for example, the victim(s) or former criminal associates), and refrain from committing any criminal offence.

An offender will also be required to participate in a rehabilitation programme or educational activities and must actively seek employment or alternative economic engagement.

If an offender is younger than 22 years, they must be supervised by a social worker. “If, however, an offender is serving a sentence for a violent offencee, as will be defined in the parole regulations and will include murder and other offenses against the person, the parole board will be empowered to refuse to grant parole.

Such refusal must be based on a reasonable likelihood of the offender committing a further violent offense,” the task-force’s report reads.

“A decision to deny parole is not subject to appeal, but is subject to judicial review by a court. Any denial of parole must be reviewed within five years, and within every subsequent five years, until the offender is granted parole or serves the remainder of his or her sentence.”

The taskforce recommended that the Attorney General and Parliament commence an inquiry and develop legislation on the definition of what constitutes a life sentence, which may include a minimum number of years to be served before a prisoner is considered for parole or remission, or provision for prisoners under specific circumstances to serve whole life sentences.

 

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