Busingye makes case for jail alternatives

Justice Minister Johnston Busingye speaks during the opening ceremony of RIB’s three-day retreat in Nyamata. Courtesy.

Justice Minister and Attorney General Johnston Busingye has appealed for alternatives to imprisonment to ensure balance between the number of people who go to jail and those who are released from prisons.

He was speaking while opening the second Rwanda Investigation Bureau (RIB) retreat in Nyamata Sector, Bugesera District.

The three-day retreat will evaluate, assess and propose a way forward to improve the investigative organ’s service delivery.

Busingye said the international standards of prison management indicate that the number of inmates released should be equal to the number of those getting in prison to prevent prisons from being overcrowded and ensure its capacity is not under threat.

However, statistics from the Rwanda Correctional Services (RCS) show that there is a big gap between the numbers of inmates going to prisons compared to those getting released.

So far this month, RCS has recorded an estimated 400 inmates sent to prison compared to 200 inmates that have been released.

“It is obvious in the reports we get from the correctional service body that the number of inmates getting in prisons is bigger than that of inmates being released and this shows imbalance in that process,” Busingye said.

The Minister added that it is a concern when over 90 per cent of penalties given to people by the courts are of prison sentence but revealed that the new laws on criminal procedure which will be released in the next two weeks suggest some penalty alternatives like public works, the use of ankle monitors and fines among other penalties.

Although RIB’s responsibilities don’t include sentencing criminals, Busingye insists the organ can play a role in helping the justice sector on how best the new penalty alternatives can be better implemented.

“There are different alternatives that can be used to penalize people without putting them in prison because a prison itself is supposed to accommodate a given number of inmates, needs standard supervision and we would love to welcome the organ’s advice to do better,” Busingye stated.

Hilary Sengabo, the spokesperson of Rwanda Correctional Services, told Sunday Times that the new alternatives will support the correctional service management in terms of planning and addressing overcrowding in prisons.

“We keep upgrading the prisons so we can get enough space to accommodate inmates but we would be better off when the number [of inmates] reduces. Such alternatives will help to avoid overpopulation in prisons while also helping to reduce the prison’s budget and manpower,” Sengabo said.

There are over 72, 200 inmates in13 prisons across the country.