The twenty-year-old Samir Youssef (a pseudonym) did not expect that his quarrel with some neighbors in the Al-Wehdat Market area would lead him to prison, and a 9-month sentence, but what saved him from imprisonment in correction and rehabilitation centers, his punishment replaced by an alternative community service, by work As a male barber in a government institution.
Youssef told Al-Jazeera Net, “The profession of barber saved me from prison,” and continued, “Had it not been for the application of the societal punishment against me, my family of 5 would have been lost, especially since I am the only provider for them, and I work on a daily basis.”
Yusef’s story was not the only one in the corridors of the Jordanian courts, since the application of the system of community reform alternatives in 2018, and until now, about 333 people convicted of minor misdemeanors have benefited from these alternative punishments.
There are a number of examples of societal punishments issued by Jordanian courts, including sentencing a person to plant trees and roses instead of imprisonment, and another who carries out community service in the field of maintenance and rehabilitation work for a public park, instead of imprisonment for committing the offense of logging.
26 subjects benefited from the decision
Work began to apply alternative penalties for imprisonment in correction and rehabilitation centers, known in Jordan as “alternatives to community reform,” after the legal amendments introduced to the Penal Code in 2017, according to which a legal text was added providing alternatives to community reform.
Speaking to Al-Jazeera Net, Minister of Justice Bassam Al-Talhouni affirmed that “alternatives to community reform or alternative penalties have become an important part of the criminal justice system in Jordan,” noting that this system has multiple benefits, the most important of which is that the convict does not cut off from his source of livelihood. For him and his family, as the student does not stop his studies and so on.
Al-Talhouni added that 333 persons convicted of minor delinquent crimes were able to leave the cell of deprivation of freedom, preserve their source of livelihood and stay with their families, after the courts decided to replace the imprisonment sentence issued against them with a social service in a number of state institutions, since the entry into force of the new penal code among the reform alternatives Community Society in September 2018.
These rulings were divided into 307 judgments for males and 26 for females. Of these cases, 130 were under the age of 25, 156 were for people between 26-45 years old, and 47 cases were for those over the age of 47.
Among the rulings issued are 310 cases for persons of Jordanian nationality, and 23 cases for other nationalities.
200 hours of social punishment
The legal expert, Muhammad Abu Ghanima, indicated to Al-Jazeera Net, that “this positive step will alleviate overcrowding in reform centers, the high cost of inmates for the state, and provide protection for the convicted for the first time.”
He explained that the alternative penalties stipulate that those sentenced to criminal or delinquent cases of no more than a year shall carry out an alternative social punishment, by performing unpaid work to serve the community, for a period determined by the court, provided that it is not less than (40) working hours, and not more than For (200) hours instead of placing them in prisons, by a decision of the competent judge, provided that he is not a repeat offender, with the consent of the convicted person himself.
Abu Ghanima added that the most important problems facing this system are the limited number of public places in which the convicted person can carry out his societal punishment, suggesting that the penalties be directed towards implementing the necessary maintenance work for schools, mosques, cemeteries, hospitals and other things that need maintenance work.
Expand the application
Human rights activist Eva Abu Halawa called on judges to expand the use of this system, especially with the outbreak of the Corona virus, and overcrowding in reform centers, to reduce the social and economic costs of those convicted of minor misdemeanors, and to increase the number of beneficiaries of this system from women, juveniles, the elderly and people with chronic diseases, who constitute imprisonment Danger to their lives.
She added to Al-Jazeera Net, that the most important characteristic of societal penalties is that they limit the mixing of those convicted of minor misdemeanors with dangerous convicts and habitual criminals, prevent the transmission of criminal infection to them, and preserve the source of livelihood of the convicted, especially since the punishment depriving freedom is a punishment for the family and leads to family disintegration and serious social problems. Especially for children and women.
Punishments that negatively affect the freedom of persons carry with them many negative effects, not the least of which is the social stigma and ostracism of the convicted members of society, their psychological dangers on them, and the strengthening of their desire for revenge against the perpetrators of imprisonment, which makes alternatives to community reform a logical and appropriate solution for those convicted.