Serve less time in prison - serve community instead

Kerala too is toying with a similar idea to make offenders accused in petty cases walk out of the bars and let them do productive work in the community.

Published: 26th October 2018 09:56 AM  |   Last Updated: 26th October 2018 09:56 AM   |  A+A-

Image used for representational purpose only

Express News Service

THIRUVANANTHAPURAM: It could be an Act that may set stage for reformation if a first-time thief is caught in the act. At a time when prisons are getting overcrowded along with rising cost of keeping people locked up in jails, the Social Justice Department (SJD) is actively mulling a new Act that will enable the courts to deliver community service in place of custodial punishment.

So days are not far behind when you may come across a prisoner looking after your loved one at a palliative care centre or feeding the elderly at an old age home or setting a garden on a hospital premise.
Andhra Pradesh and Gujarat had framed laws that made community service an alternative to imprisonment.

Kerala too is toying with a similar idea to make offenders accused in petty cases walk out of the bars and let them do productive work in the community. The department has started the groundwork for framing a draft of the Act which will be send to the Law Department for ratification.The proposed Kerala Community Service of Offenders Act will provide relief only to small-time offenders sentenced to not more than three years or with a fine, or both.

“Community service is actively practised in the West where it is seen as a trade-off between community service and punishment. In Andhra, a similar Act was enforced but with limited success,” said Social Justice Department Special Secretary Biju Prabhakar.

Social Justice Department Special Secretary Biju Prabhakar said: “We are seriously viewing community service as an alternative to punishment and will do the needful to frame the Act.”

As per the proposal, the court can pass the sentence in petty cases but may suspend the whole or part of it and make the offender take up an unpaid community work in accordance with the provisions of the Act.  The community service can be rendered in government hospitals, palliative centres, care homes, local bodies etc.

The number of working hours will be given in the order. It shall be the aggregate of not less than 40 hours and not more than 240 hours. Once enacted, the Act will be applicable for the first-time offenders.
A senior prison department officer is of the view that the decision would benefit the law enforcement agencies and the individuals alike.

“The prisons are already over-crowded. Moreover, pushing a person who had committed minor offences to prison won’t help in his reformation process,” he said. The courts can order community service only with the consent of the offender and after considering the report of the probation officer. The offender will act in accordance with the instruction of the probation officer. There will also be provision for appeal and revision of the community service order.


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