Community service could now save you from a “Stay at the Government Hotel”

Rudi Bowe

A total of 547 offenders are currently serving prison sentences of twelve months or less in various Namibian correctional facilities, and would cost Correctional Services a total of N$1,2 million. And that is exactly why the Department of Correctional Services is engaging several Government ministries now to institute a mandatory community service period for inmates serving sentences of twelve months or less for less serious offences. This system is anticipated to come into force by November in the Erongo Region.

A consultative meeting took place yesterday between the Department of Correctional Services (Ministry of Safety and Security) and the Ministries of- Education, Arts and Culture, Health and Social Services, and Gender Equality and Child Welfare, the Office of the Prosecutor-General and the Office of the Judiciary, to discuss the coming to Erongo of mandatory community service for offenders sentenced to twelve months or less.
In a presentation by Deputy Commissioner Natacha Booysen of the Department of Correctional Services, it cost Government an average of N$2 248-48 per month to accommodate a male inmate in any Namibian correctional facility.
The monthly cost for a female prisoner is N$2 215-01. Should offenders serving sentences of twelve months or less for less serious offences be given community service instead of a prison sentence, it could dramatically reduce cost, she explained.
Apart from cost saving to Government, there are other benefits too, explained Deputy Commissioner Booysen. The offender can continue to look after his or her household after serving the mandatory hours per day, they remain integrated in society and there is less risk of coming into contact with entrenched criminals serving sentences who could influence these “soft offenders into becoming “hardened” criminals.
Erongo forms part of the Central Region in the Department of Correctional Services and is among the last where the mandatory community service system would be implemented, along with Khomas. The Correctional Services Regions already have the mandatory community service program in place, explained Deputy Commissioner Booysen. The system could be in place in Erongo by November. The system would not benefit inmates already serving these categories of sentences.
According to Booysen, there are some resistence to mandatory community service. These include magistrates still believing that incarceration is the only option and even people found guilty of offences opting for a prison sentence rather than doing community service which could lead to a potential embarrassment in public.
Below: a cost breakdown of holding offenders in a Namibian correctional facility (source DCS):

You must be logged in to post a comment Login