Prisoners may be given ‘community service’ sentences in UAE by early next year

The UAE will soon adopt the alternative penalties law, said Dr. Jamal Al Sumaiti, Director General of Dubai Judicial Institute as reported Emarat al Youm.

He said that the bill on alternative measures like ‘community service’ in cases of misdemeanors and minor violations instead of imprisonment, is being considered.

He added that a federal committee of advisers, experts and heads of public prosecutions in addition to lawyers, reviewed the draft law and decided that it can be applied by early next year at the most.

However, members of the Federal National Council say it will be more expensive for the government to apply it. Other members said that the imprisonment of short duration is useless and will never be a deterrent.

Dr Al Sumaiti said that the bill will be re-submitted to the Cabinet and then presented to the President His Highness Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan, for approval.

He explained that the alternative Penal Code cannot be applied on all convicts, or drug addicts as they should be placed in the center for rehabilitation.

The committee studying alternative punishments reviewed the experience of other countries to identify the best way of applying what fits the local environment and the values prevailing in society.

Earlier, the Cabinet approved the federal law of alternative punishments which lists  20 offences that call for community service ranging between 20 to  240 hours.

By applying the new code, the UAE will be the first among Arab countries to adopt such type of law.

Additional cost

Chairman of the Interior and Defense Committee at the Federal National Council, Dr. Yaqoub Al Naqbi, said that the application of the new law of alternative punishments will incur the UAE more money than they spend on regular penalties.

He added it would require the presence of security for monitoring and follow-up, as well as increase the possibility of escape by offenders.

He called for internal alternative measures such as establishment of workshops in prisons for such prisoners. He added such workshops such as carpentry for men, and sewing and embroidery for women, will help in rehabilitating the prisoners.

He called on investors to help implementation of such projects in prisons as they will profit from it. This will also reduce the financial burden on the government.

Good for UAE

Ahmed Ali Al Za'abi, head of the legislative committee in the FNC, said that short-term imprisonment is not working and is not a deterrent. On the contrary, it opens the opportunity to learn crime from hardened criminals in prison.

Al Za'abi demanded the abolition of short-term imprisonment entirely and its replacement with financial fines followed by deportation - this will help the punitive and correctional institutions.

Said Al Ghilani, a lawyer, said that the Alternative Penal Code would be more of a deterrent.

He pointed out that it will ease the problem of overcrowding in prisons, which often causes the transmission of diseases among prisoners.

Al Ghilani stressed the importance of alternative penal code which will prevent the mingling of prisoners with each other, which will prevent the development of the criminal inclinations to the offenders who were convicted in simple cases.

He added in simple cases offenders entered prison for the first time on issues such as the abuse of narcotic substances but later became drug dealers, after being educated in prison at the hands of criminals.

Al Ghilani stressed that it is possible for one policeman to control dozens of such offenders doing community service.

(Home page image courtesy Shutterstock)


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