As part of a broader plan to reduce on the number of people who end up in correctional facilities, the Government will soon introduce electronic ankle monitors as an alternative to incarceration, the Minister for Justice, Johnston Busingye has said.
Addressing members of the Senate, yesterday, Busingye said that though the number of people in the country’s correctional facilities has significantly reduced over the years, the Government was working on alternative ways of bringing those who commit crimes to justice without necessarily sending them to jail.
“There are different laws that have been passed to help us in this process and they will soon come into force once they are published in the official gazette. One of them will allow for the introduction of the court mandated electronic ankle monitor. In about a month, we will be discussing with the stakeholders on how to use it. It’s one of the ways that are popularly used in more developed countries,” he said.
An electronic ankle monitor or bracelet is usually worn by a criminal who has been sentenced to house arrest, has been paroled or those on probation. They may be worn before or after a person goes to trial on criminal charges.
Busingye explained to the senators that the ankle monitor transmits the wearer’s location to a monitoring system via GPS and an attempt to remove the device triggers an alarm to law enforcement. If the offender travels outside of a set geographic area, such as the city in which he lives, it also triggers an alarm.
For instance, a judge can order a person convicted of driving under the influence of alcohol or other substances to wear an ankle bracelet instead of serving jail time. Ankle bracelets assigned in connection to a driving under influence case can monitor alcohol consumption. The bracelet tests the offender’s perspiration for the presence of alcohol and the information is then relayed to a central computer database where it is tracked by law enforcement.
Besides reducing cases of imprisonment, Busingye pointed out that as part of the ongoing prison reforms, those who end up in jail are immediately enrolled into programmes with an aim to change them for the better.
“We are looking into how those who are entering correctional facilities can be changed for the better and can apply for early release faster. We have no control over who enters prison because it’s the judge’s decision but we can do something to make sure that the person who has been sentenced can leave a changed human being,” he said.
Busingye also pointed out that the Rwanda Correctional Services had been instructed to keep track of and collect information on repeat offenders.
The senators were also told that those who have committed crimes are not released and forgotten but, instead, are followed up in their local communities, where they are given all the support that they need to better their lives.
Senator Apollinaire Mushinzimana commended the significant changes that have been made in terms of prisoners’ files, including an integrated system that was established to help people to keep track of their files or those of their loved ones.
Senator Marie Claire Mukasine said that there was need to look into the country’s history on how offenders would be punished but also at the same time protected and not made enemies of society.