Kingdom opts for alternatives to imprisonment

prison cells
(File photo: Jordan News)
AMMAN — The Ministry of Justice signed a memorandum of understanding with various entities to implement alternative sentences to imprisonment. The memo focuses on first-time offenders convicted of misdemeanors and sentenced for a period not exceeding one year.اضافة اعلان

The move is in line with the Cabinet’s approval of a regulation that outlines the means and mechanisms to be pursued in alternative punishments for the year 2022.

The memorandum of understanding comprises the ministries of labor, agriculture, social development, youth, and education, as well as the Public Security Directorate and a handful of universities.

Community service, used in many Western nations, is envisaged as an alternative penalty to imprisonment. It will obligate a convict to perform unpaid work for the community for a period specified by a Jordanian court.

The service, between 40 and 200 hours, would have to be completed within a year of allocation.

Additionally, a convict may be obligated to serve community probation, a term used to signal banning a lawbreaker from accessing certain places within a community and to undergo probation for a period of no less than six months and not more than three years, which will be determined by the court.

A third alternative obliges a felon to submit to a rehabilitation program determined by the court. This approach aims at correcting and improving behavior.

Nizar Al-Kharabsheh, a spokesperson for the Ministry of Justice, told Jordan News that “the principle of alternative penalties states that the convict has the chance to undergo a social punishment program, instead of being sentenced to jail.”

“The convict may be ordered to plant 100 trees in a public park, while another may be asked to do maintenance work, paint, cleaning, or do any other task that the convict is able to perform in a school, a place of worship, or in a charitable organization,” he added.

Through alternative sentences, the ministry seeks to address overcrowding in jailhouses and rehabilitation centers across the Kingdom, and ease the financial burden on the government, Kharabsheh explained.

“One of the significant positive effects of this program is the fact that the convict does not need to stop working, and can thus still earn money. This is a great improvement over imprisonment, which constitutes an economic burden on the family,” Kharabsheh pointed out.

The judge overseeing the case can use their discretion to propose an alternative sentence to prison time, but only in cases where the verdict in the misdemeanor is imprisonment for a period not exceeding one year.

“These alternative punishments are applied to misdemeanors only, not to major crimes,” Kharabsheh said.

He said that prisoners need to agree to the alternative terms for them to go into effect. Alongside that, they need to be first-time offenders.

“There are countless alternative punishments”, Kharabsheh said. He said “if the convict is a doctor, for example, the alternative punishment may be for him to practice his profession as a doctor in a youth center.”

“The alternative punishment is chosen according to several criteria, including the person’s ability to carry out the designated punishment,” he said. He added that if a convict rejected the alternative terms, “he will be handed down the basic penalty, which is imprisonment.”

The recent amendments to the Penal Code, which came into effect on June 24, gave judges the discretionary authority to assess if the circumstances of the case allow them to replace a jail sentence with one or more of the alternative penalties. These include community service, community monitoring, electronic monitoring, or banning the offender from accessing specific public places.

The regulation was introduced for the purposes of defining the means and procedures for executing the sentence with alternatives to penalties in accordance with the recently amended provisions of Article 25 of the Penal Code. It helps determine the mechanism of executing the sentence, and the procedures for replacing imprisonment with alternative penalties after the ruling becomes final and cannot be appealed.

Ministry of Justice figures show that 356 cases of minor misdemeanor were meted out a different kind of punishment last year, with offenders ordered to perform community service.

Another 277 similar cases, also from last year, still await verdicts and sentencing.

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