KEETMANSHOOP - //Kharas regional governor Aletha Frederick said the community service orders (CSO) process is designed to manage offenders in the community so that they can positively contribute to the wellbeing of the general public.
She made these remarks when she officially opened the roll-out of the project to the //Kharas region at Keetmanshoop last Friday.
“There might be possible challenges in terms of public views and perceptions about crime and the severity of punishment,” she said.
A community service order is an order of the court, obligating a deserving offender, usually, a first offender not posing a risk to the public, to perform unpaid work for the benefit of the public as an alternative to imposing stricter sanctions like incarceration.
Frederick added some people may think a community service order is a soft option, whereas others may opine the community service rewards crime.
The governor also said some residents may mistakenly believe that, amid the job losses emanating from the coronavirus, the likelihood or hope for jobs by law-abiding citizens may be negatively influenced, as criminals will now be allowed to provide these labour cost-free.
“Therefore, the public must be sensitised through the use of broader information platforms and political-will must be garnered to ensure that the community service programme is successfully implemented,’’ she said
The governor added for greater demand for decongestion during the Covid-19 pandemic, both the policy and opinion makers must be able to appreciate the limits of inherent dangers of overcrowded imprison facilities as well as to understand the benefits that accrue from community service orders.
“I would recommend that planning, organising and coordination of community service activities be thoroughly explained through public discourse,’’ she urged.
The regional political head further added that community service orders aim at providing a realistic, disciplined and worthwhile community-based sentence.
She continued that this may also encourage rehabilitation and reduce re-offending.
Frederick then recommended that CSOs are carefully selected on merits and they must be properly monitored at all times.
“Do not let CSOs take lead without compliance with the requirements that might undermine the safety of the public,’’ Frederick further cautioned.
During his presentation, Namibia Correctional Service senior officer Hosea Shilongo, who will be in charge of the CSO programme in the //Kharas region, explained the objective of CSOs is to rehabilitate and re-integrate those qualifying offenders back into the community as law-abiding citizens.
In terms of the criteria to be considered for absorption in the programme, he explained that first-time offenders for petty crimes like shoplifting, theft and common assault are likely to be considered.
“The alternative sentence possibly imposed at a court of law should also not exceed 12 calendar months,’’ he added.
Shilongo said the group of those who qualify, amongst others, includes juveniles, young offenders and breadwinners having to care for their dependents.
“The community services they perform should furthermore be to the benefit of community at large,’’ he explained.
The officer also said CSOs have a restorative effect in essence, as those performing it are – in a way – compensating community for their wrongdoings towards it.
“It costs government N$2 248.48 to keep a male inmate at our facilities per month whilst the cost of keeping a female offender in custody per month amounts to N$2 215.01,” he added. – email@example.com