Prisons congestion: CJ lashes at police, bail law

20Jul 2019
The Guardian Reporter
Dar es Salaam
The Guardian
Prisons congestion: CJ lashes at police, bail law

CHIEF Justice Prof Ibrahim Juma yesterday sought to exonerate the Judiciary from blame on congestion in prisons and reported miscarriages of justice, pointing a finger at investigators and restrictive laws on bail.

CHIEF Justice Prof Ibrahim Juma.

Speaking in Dar es Salaam during the swearing in of 720 new advocates, Prof Juma recommended that laws be changed to allow bail for suspects of currently unbailable crimes including murder,

“As Judiciary, we recommend that we adopt a system like Kenya where the courts determine bail. The issue should not be restricted in law as it is now. If that is done, we won’t have the problem of congestion,” the CJ said.

Contrary to the long-held belief that crimes such as murder are not bailable, if courts are given a free hand to deal with the issue, things will improve in prisons and the example where the system is working is just across the border in Kenya.

With regard to bail conditions, he said demands for immovable property were restrictive, denying some deserving suspects their right to freedom as their cases are being heard.

“Now that we have national identity cards, the documents can be used to bail out a suspect instead of tough conditions,” the top Judiciary official intoned.

As for miscarriage of justice, Prof Juma said the blame should go to investigators of cases before prosecution since it is evidence adduced that can help judges and magistrates determine cases quickly.

He said suspects facing murder, economic sabotage, drug trafficking and sexual offences are prone to staying longer in remand because their cases are not bailable in the midst of incomplete or delayed investigation.

“The blame should go to investigators, not the Judiciary or any other entity for that matter,” the CJ said.

The comments come hot in the heels of an on the spot inspection of congestion in jail and miscarriage of justice in a visit by President Dr John Magufuli in Mwanza lately.

Addressing reporters in Mwanza on Wednesday, Justice and Constitutional Affairs Minister Dr Augustine Mahiga said most prisons are congested with some having double their capacity of inmates.

On Wednesday, President Magufuli ordered a countrywide audit of prisons and release of those found to be victims of miscarriage of justice.

Speaking in Kongwa district, Dodoma region, the Head of State said the decision has been informed by what he encountered during his impromptu visit to Butimba Prison in Mwanza on Tuesday where he learned of rampant miscarriage of justice.

“I direct the Ministry of Justice and Constitutional Affairs, the Ministry of Home Affairs in collaboration with other security organs to visit all prisons in the country, talk to the inmates and ensure that those who are not supposed to be there are released,” he said.

While at Butimba, inmates raised a number of issues to the president, including corruption in the corridors of justice, delayed cases, twisted charges, wrongful imprisonment and violence within the facility.

Since directing that something be done about the injustices in Mwanza on Tuesday, some prisons had already worked on the matter with scores having been released by Wednesday.