A total of sh424.7 million was realized from activities by 163 prisoners serving their sentences through community services in Kagera Region between 2010 to last year, the Regional Social Community Development Officer, Octavian Rwazo has disclosed.

He said the revenue was realized through various social activities including environmental conservation whereby 16,000 tree seedlings were distributed to seven districts of Muleba, Biharamulo, Bukoba, Karagwe, Misenyi, Kyerwa and Ngara. He further said 380 prisoners were screened out of which 163 qualified to serve their sentences under community service.

According to Mr Rwazo, the Community Service Act No 6/2002 empowers the Minister for Home Affairs to consider community service to some of the prisoners serving jail sentences not exceeding three years. The prisoners serving sentences on community service are normally under the supervision of the Social Community Development Officer.

Meanwhile, the Secretary of the Regional Parole Board, SACP Yusuf Kimanji, who is also the Regional Prisons Officer (RPO), told this newspaper yesterday that between 2003 and last year, 317 prisoners’ applications were discussed by the regional parole board.

Out of them, 191 prisoners benefited by being released from prison while 114 others had their applications rejected. He said 12 prisoners were still waiting for the outcome of their applications, while 22 others were serving their sentences on parole.

SACP Kimanji said that the Parole Board Act No 25/1994 empowers the Minister of Home Affairs to consider granting parole to some of the prisoners serving jail sentences exceeding four years or who had already served one third of their jail terms after showing good conduct.

He noted that the parole system had shown positive results by reforming prisoners. “Through the Parole Board Act congestion of inmates had been reduced and the budget of maintaining prisoners had been cut,” he said. According to RPO Kimanji, prisoners who were not covered by the parole system include those on death row, those convicted of armed robbery, rape, defilement, possessing dangerous drugs and those serving life sentences.

The prisoners serving sentences on parole are normally under supervision of the Prisons Officer, he said. The Chief Judge, Faki Jundu, recently challenged magistrates to opt for alternative sentences instead of prison sentences. He made the appeal while opening a training workshop for Dar es Salaam-based magistrates.

He noted that for quite a long time, most magistrates have been serving prison sentences even for minor criminal offences which could benefit through parole.

Judge Jundu elaborated that while in neighbouring Kenya over 50,000 prisoners were on parole, the story was quite different in Tanzania where the number of prisoners on parole did not exceed 1,000. He urged magistrates to consider giving alternative sentences to ease congestion of inmates in prison cells.