The impact of community service in the criminal justice system in Uganda: a case study of Nabweru Chief Magistrate’s Court, Wakiso District, Uganda
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Community Service is defined under the Community Act (Cap.115) as non-custodial punishment by which after conviction, the court with the consent of the offender, makes an order for the offender to serve the community rather than undergo imprisonment. It developed as an alternative sentence to prison in the judiciary as part of the reform of the criminal justice system in Uganda. Further, it was developed because it was realized that imprisonment of persons charged with minor or petty offences led to overcrowding in prisons. The introduction of community service punishment, however, has since been received with mixed reactions. Whereas the proponents view it as a big relief to the problem of overcrowding in prisons, critics feel it is a soft punishment. The objective of the study was to examine the impact of community service in the criminal justice system by using case study of Nabweru Chief Magistrate’s court. The specific objectives of the study which include analyzing community service as a punishment, examining the effectiveness of community service punishment, and providing proposals for reforms in community service punishment in Uganda were formulated. The study adopted a qualitative approach and the target population was the judicial officers, probation officers, the police, in charges of placement institutions and prosecutors. The findings revealed that community service punishment has contributed to the criminal justice system in terms of diversion of offenders charged with minor or petty offences from imprisonment. However, it faces several challenges which limit its effectiveness and impact in the criminal justice system such as inadequate resources, lack of awareness within the public platforms to stimulate public support and participation in the application of Community Service punishment. The other challenges include non-compliance by the offenders, thin staff to do supervision and the available staff was not properly facilitated to do their work. The placement institutions had no relevant work to provide skills for the offenders. The study recommends amendment of The Community Service Act (Cap. 115), The Trial on Indictments Act (Cap. 23) and The Magistrate’s Court Act (Cap. 16) to address some gaps discovered by this research to improve the effectiveness of community service as a punishment.