Regional Commonwealth countries will meet Monday to discuss alternative sentencing and adopt strategies to decongest prison facilities.
Rwanda hosts the meeting because of its experience in reducing overcrowding of prisons after the Genocide, explained the Minister of Justice, Tharcisse Karugarama.
“Rwanda was chosen to host this workshop because of its immense experience in alternative sentencing practices that have helped to drastically reduce prison congestion to a remarkable degree,” said the minister.
“Our judicial and penal reforms are aspects that have gained respect among many Commonwealth countries”.
He added that the meeting would be a platform for sharing experiences with other countries and about Rwanda’s practice in using other alternative sentences.
Principal State Attorney, Frank Mwine Mugisha, said that new Penal Code allows shorter sentences and permits some prisoners to serve their punishments on parole to decongest prisons.
“Our new penal code prescribes sentences which permit prisoners to do community work from their homes. This helps in reducing the government ‘s expenditure for prisons and eases overcrowding,” he said.
Speaking to The New Times, Mary Gahonzire, the Commissioner General of Prisons, pointed out that the country has embarked on constructing Penitentiaries that meet international standards and closing ones that are outdated like Nyanza and Gisovu.
Rwanda will soon replace the penal system with correctional.
“We conform to all that is required by the International Human Rights. We have built international prisons like Mpanga Prison. We are also in the course of completing Gikombe Prison in Gisenyi and Butamwa in Nyarugenge District,” she said Mpanga prison is located in Mukingo Sector in Nyanza District , harbours war criminals convicted by the United Nations Special Court for Sierra Leone, among other inmates.
Members of the general public who were interviewed by The New Times welcomed the new development.
“It would be good to reduce the overcrowding in prisons. Inmates are also human beings. Sometimes forty prisoners share a cell which was meant for five people. They also need fresh air,” said Alex Twagira, a taxi driver.
“It’s also good to release some prisoners and let them do community work because the government will benefit instead of overspending on them”.
The three-day meeting will attract experts from countries like the UK, New Zealand, Kenya Uganda Botswana and Tanzania.