, NAIROBI, Kenya, Jul 18 – Taxpayers could in the near future be contribute to a kitty proposed to assist ex-prisoners rebuild their lives if the proposal is approved by the government.
The National Community Service Orders Committee disclosed on Saturday that it would in the future seek audience with the Treasury to negotiate for funding for the proposed National Offender Support Fund for ex-convicts as well as those coming out of community service orders and probations.
"The number that is coming out from prison is a big number and it is not easy (for us) to support all of them. On the lower side we are talking about at least Sh50,000 per offender. We want to negotiate with Treasury to allocate us funds for each district to support them," said the Committee’s Director of Probation Service Jerim Oloo.
He said the offenders would however be expected to contribute to the Fund’s initial capital through the various programs such as the National Afforestation project that are implemented by the Committee.
Mr Oloo said the proposal to set up the Fund, which would be designed based on the Youth Enterprise Development Fund or Women Fund’s model, was informed by the difficulty that offenders face in landing employment opportunities upon their release from jails.
He told a press briefing that of the thousands of prisoners who are released every year, about 10,000 of them seek help from the Committee whose programme aims to punish particularly minor offenders by ordering that they performing community service duties.
During the briefing, the Committee also appealed for additional budgetary funds to enable it to effectively implement and manage the scheme.
Mr Oloo said they would require about Sh120 million every year to train, recruit and transport offenders sentenced to community service to the various stations.
Currently, the program gets about Sh48million annually. Since its inception in 1999, a total of 452,233 offenders have been placed on the Community Service Orders Programme.
He regretted that the limited funding and lack of awareness are some of the challenges hampering the success of the program which aims to utilise minor criminals’ energies in servicing the community as opposed to locking them up in prisons.
At the briefing the Program’s National Chairman Justice Jackton Ojwang said they have proposed several changes to the Community Service Orders Act, which came into effect in 1999 Act to address these challenges.
Part of these amendments if approved would see children below 16 years no longer eligible for the CSO sentence as the National Committee has already developed juvenile guidelines on child offenders placed on the program.
"The Children’s Act provides that children can be committed to the CSO orders but recommendations are being made so that children are not the primary subject of committal in relation to community service orders," the Chairman said.
A revision has also been proposed so that people found guilty of contravening the order face a jail sentence.
The two officials also said they were pushing for the adoption of the provision of pre-bail reports for remand prisoners by all courts as one way of decongesting the jails.
"The probation officers are now expected to provide reports so that reasonable or appropriate bail conditions may be given to some of the accused persons who are in remand prison who cannot afford to get out on the conditions that have already been given," the Director of Probation explained.