Malawi judiciary to encourage non-custodial sentences

Malawi Judicial Service says it wants to encourage non custodial sentences so that government minimizes costs on offenders.

The Judicial says the approach will also be good for the offenders as they will have time to look after their families while serving their sentences.

Judiciary Community Service Deputy Director, Albert Phikani, made the revelation in Ntchisi during a court users committee meeting which attracted district stakeholders including the court, prison and police.

Prisoners sit outside of Chichiri prison, one of Malawi's notoriously overcrowded jails. Photo credit Times Group.

The deputy director said custodial sentences were very expensive as the offenders have to be dressed, fed and looked after all the time.

“We want to encourage to community service so offenders could be serving their own communities by working in institutions like schools, hospitals and others,” he said.

“We don’t want our magistrates to send every offender to prison because there are so many sentences that can be imposed on offenders apart from custodial ones.”

Phikani also said reduction of the pre-trial detention in prisons commonly known as remand was part of their 2011 – 2016 program which focuses on promoting access to justice.

He said it was the judiciary’s concern that suspects spend long periods under detention due to judiciary’s problems and this “affects the remandees thereby making people lose trust in their judicial system.”

“We want to improve. We will reduce the rate of pre-trial detentions in prisons by among others speeding up their cases and holding camp courts where cases are heard right in prisons just to make the remandees access justice within a short period of time,” said Phikani.

According to statistics, Ntchisi is one of the districts in Malawi doing well in non custodial sentences and currently Ntchisi Prison has 17 remandees out of the 176 inmates it is keeping.

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