Community service defaulters imprisoned

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Police have re-arrested and imprisoned 27 convicts sentenced to community service this year after they absconded while performing their duties in a drama that also implicates the state for failing to adequately fund and equip the operations.
Paul Makoni, the deputy director of community service in Zimbabwe, said that 27 of the 544 offenders placed under community service from January to June this year have been hunted them down, arrested and taken to court where they have been slapped with alternative jail terms.
The 27 were found to be in wilful neglect of duties ordered by magistrates in Harare.
It is also rumoured that some of the offenders could have bribed heads of institutions for exemption from community service.
“There are reasons why these offenders default. One of them is lack of strict supervision by community service officers who do not have transport to commute to the various centres where these people would have been sent to work,” Makoni said.
He said some of the defaults arose from loopholes in pre-sentencing assessments, which often lead to improper sentencing.
“Some magistrates do not send offenders to our offices for pre-sentencing assessment to find out whether the said offenders would be suitable candidates for community service or not,” Makoni said. “There is also a question of lack of supervising skills by heads of department where these offenders will be performing. It is their duty to find suitable jobs to keep the offenders busy but they tend to relax and allow them to do what they want resulting in them absconding.”
Turning to the issue of staff, Makoni said field monitors were effective and cited an incident in Nkhulumane, Bulawayo, where an offender sent his relative to perform community service on his behalf but the wily move was detected resulting in the convict being re-arrested.
Community service is an optional sentence given to offenders besides paying fines, wholly suspended sentences and jail terms.
This type of punishment allows the offender to serve while coming from home, thereby maintaining family ties and allowing the offender to fend for his or her family.
The Community Service Department is run by a national committee headed by Supreme Court Judge Justice Paddington Garwe.
Director of the department is Jefta Makaza, deputised by Makoni with 70 officers including principals, senior and junior community service officers countrywide.