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Training for 400 officers to improve use of community service to rehabilitate offenders in Kenya

Kisumu, Kenya - 5 August 2019 : A major push to upskill 400 officers of the Probation and Aftercare Service (PACS) in the effective use of Community Service Orders to rehabilitate offenders began in Kisumu today.

Between now and December, Probation Officers who are also Community Service Officers will be trained on aspects of the Community Service Orders Act through support from the Regional Office for Eastern Africa of the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) and the European Union via the Programme for Legal Empowerment and Aid Delivery in Kenya (PLEAD).

On any given day across Kenya, Probation Officers oversee the supervision of offenders as they perform community service directed by the Court - which can range from street planting and road construction to cleaning public parks - while working with victims of crime and the public to ensure public safety.

The training will cover such areas as key principles, offences considered for community service, supervision of work sites and handling of absconding matters.

"The objective is to increase the knowledge and ability of our officers to successfully implement the Community Service Orders Programme, with the ultimate goal of improving the level of supervision and contributing to reducing the burden on over-stretched prisons," the Deputy Director of PACS, Mr Siambe, said in his opening remarks to the first group of 40 Probation Officers in Kisumu.

While attending the launch, the Community Service Orders National Coordinator, Hon Atiang, in his remarks said that the training would soon see an increase of Community Service Orders referrals from the Courts as Magistrates undergo a similar training.

In her remarks, the PLEAD Programme Manager for UNODC, Ms Maria Temesvari, said the training will be an opportunity to discuss the challenges PACS officers face at their stations in relation to implementing Community Service Orders and how to overcome them.

"A 2018 assessment by UNODC found that a lack of training and poor appreciation of the significance of probation and community service was so widespread in many counties it was difficult to effectively use these measures, despite their benefits. I hope this training leaves PACS officers better equipped to perform their duties to the high standards expected by their peers and by citizens, and able to increase community engagement in the rehabilitation of offenders who perform community service," Ms Temesvari said.

Kenya's Constitution of 2010 prioritizes access to justice and has been the driving force behind justice sector reforms including significant improvements in the services provided by PACS, a vital link in the criminal justice chain.

Through PLEAD, UNODC is also assisting PACS with a National Training Needs Assessment for Probation Officers and with the development of a National Curriculum for Voluntary Probation Officers.

PLEAD is a partnership between the Government of Kenya, European Union, United Nations and civil society that is improving the delivery of justice services and use of alternatives to imprisonment. Among their targets, PLEAD partners seek to achieve a 50 per cent reduction in the backlog of criminal cases by 2022, and to decrease the number of pre-trial detainees by 30 per cent to reduce prison overcrowding.

The next Community Service Orders training workshop is due to take place in Nakuru from 19 to 20 August, followed by sessions in Mombasa, Nairobi and again in Kisumu in the coming months.

Complementing this will be training of magistrates in the effective use and management of the Community Service Orders Programme, also supported by UNODC through PLEAD.

The joint efforts supported by PLEAD should restore faith in Kenya's formal and informal justice systems and result in citizens reporting greater satisfaction with access to, and delivery of, justice.

Photo: Probation and Aftercare Service, Kenya

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