Despite being hailed as a measure to decongest prison facilities in the country, many offenders in Kabarole district are not reforming, even after successfully serving their community service orders. Records at the Kabarole district community service office indicate that more than 80 offenders have served community service orders more than three times.
Community service was introduced in Uganda in 2001 as part of the reforms in the criminal justice system. Under the system, minor offenders are made to perform community services instead of being handed custodial sentences.
Records at the Kabarole district community service office indicate that more than 80 offenders have served community service orders more than three times.
Francis Asiimwe, a member of the district community service committee, which monitors community service, says they expect offenders to reform, but this isn’t the case. Asiimwe blames this on the lack of funds to facilitate volunteers who are supposed to regularly visit the offenders in their homes and counsel them about the dangers of engaging in crime.
Asiimwe says some of the volunteers who were recruited last month later abandoned work because they weren’t paid.
Felix Mugisa, a resident of Fort Portal says there should be a rehabilitation programme for the offenders after completion of their sentence, to discourage them from engaging in crime again.
According to Mugisa, some offenders don’t fear engaging in criminal activities, because they know that they will be given lighter punishment by the courts of law. Mugisa wants the courts to give a heavy punishment to offenders who don’t reform after serving community service.
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Community service has also faced criticism from some members of the public who say that local people are not benefiting from the programme, because the implementers have turned community service into a lucrative money-making venture.
Sam Mugenyi, a resident of Karambi in Fort Portal, explains that it would be of much help to the community if offenders are given such tasks as cleaning up the community roads and not work on the estates of rich district officials.
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Community service is seen as a viable approach to improve reintegration of offenders into their communities, encourage reconciliation, as well as to reduce the problems of overcrowding in prisons.
According to the Justice Law and Order Sector, prisons would have had more than 8,000 more prisoners if community service order had not been issued by courts.