Bill seeks to scrap jail term for young offenders

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The Children Bill 2019 currently with the Labour Ministry seeks restorative justice for children offenders instead of a punitive one.

The Bill proposed 3 levels of intervention as disciplinary measures for a child offender. The three levels of intervention include:

Step 1) The child offender writes an apology letter and then does something to make up for the mistake.

Step 2) For a period of three months, the young offender spends a maximum number of hours in an institution such as educational facility, religious institution or library under the close watch of a probation officer.

Step 3) In an extreme case, the offender will do community service or stay at a rehabilitation center for a period not exceeding one year.

The current regime says that a child offender can be sentenced to jail for not more than 3 years.

The Judiciary taskforce says that a scrutiny of the offenders in jail has revealed that only 4 percent of those locked up committed crimes. Others failed to go to school or played general truancy.

The new Bill also raises the age for being held liable for a criminal offense.

Currently, the age of being held for a criminal offense is 8 years. The new Bill raises it to 12 years.

The current Children’s Act age of knowing crime is 12 years. The new Bill raises it to 14 years.

There shall also be compensation for the offended families in terms of service, money or objects.

A member of the taskforce Juliet Nyambura says, “It is symbolic restitution. The proposed bill, however, does not allow or pave way for child labor.”

At the second level of disciplinary, the child offender will be required to attend a family conference that will involve a child officer, one community member, police officer, probation officer, and another family.

The group will discuss the offense and its repercussions with the offender.

In this new Bill, the office of the Director of Public Prosecution will be required to review the cases of the children offenders with the aim of diversion away from jail terms.

In March 2019, Labor CS UKur Yattan said the ministry and other departments are working on deinstitutionalization.

The CS also said children’s’ homes will be closed so that children can live with their families or foster homes.

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