LSK Calls for Inclusion of Parole System in Kenya’s Criminal Justice Reform

Kisumu Law Courts
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Parole is a system that allows prisoners to be released before they complete their full sentence, subject to specific conditions. These conditions are based on the individual’s behavior and their readiness to reintegrate into society.

As the judiciary embarks on an ongoing criminal justice reform initiative, the Vice President of the Law Society of Kenya (LSK), Faith Odhiambo, believes that the parole system should play a vital role in providing inmates with a clear path forward following their conviction.

The parole system enables prisoners to be released from incarceration under specific conditions, which typically involve supervision and adherence to specific rules. The decision to grant parole is contingent on an individual’s behavior and their preparedness to rejoin society.

The primary aim of the parole system is to facilitate the reintegration of prisoners into the community while ensuring that they adhere to regulations and do not pose a threat to public safety.

Faith Odhiambo expressed her support for the reforms spearheaded by the National Council on Administrative Justice (NCAJ), which has led to the introduction of two bills: the Penal Code Amendment Bill 2023 and the Criminal Procedure Code Amendment Bill 2023. Odhiambo emphasized the importance of these changes in making the criminal justice system less punitive and more focused on rehabilitation.

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She underlined that the justice system should not be a mere “eye for an eye” approach when someone commits a crime. Instead, it should prioritize the rehabilitation of offenders, aiding them in making meaningful adjustments to their lives.

Faith Odhiambo, a prominent candidate for the presidency of the Law Society of Kenya in the February 2024 elections, commended the proposed abolition of the death penalty for murder offenses. She noted that the last execution of the death penalty in Kenya occurred in 1987, leaving death row inmates in an indefinite state of incarceration.

Odhiambo emphasized the unfairness of keeping these individuals in prison for extended periods, preventing them from utilizing the skills they acquire during their incarceration to better themselves. She deemed the proposed reform a step in the right direction.

The bills propose replacing the death penalty for murder cases with a 30-year prison term, which is not mandatory. This change would grant judges the discretion to determine suitable sanctions based on the specific circumstances of each case.

To further enhance the ongoing reforms, Faith Odhiambo suggested the implementation of a parole system. This system would offer inmates a pathway to freedom after serving a specified number of years and demonstrating significant progress in their rehabilitation.

Odhiambo recommended drawing inspiration from international best practices in parole implementation, providing inmates with hope for reintegration into society once they achieve specific milestones in their behavioral rehabilitation.

The bills also include provisions for decriminalizing petty offenses, such as idle and disorderly conduct, which have led to the incarceration of many impoverished offenders.

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