Isiolo residents want the President’s Power of Mercy for granting pardon to reformed and rehabilitated criminal offenders conducted twice a year to help decongest the already overwhelmed prisons to stem the spread of Covid-19.
While calling for the amendment of Article 133 of the Constitution to grant rules to guide the process, the residents said priority should be on petty offenders and that years a convict has served in prison should be considered before their release.
Led by Isiolo Interfaith Network Chair Ahmed Sett, they opposed pardoning of convicts of sexual offences, gender-based violence and murder.
Speaking during a public hearing on the review of the laws relating to the Power of Mercy in Isiolo town, Mr Sett said most of the correctional facilities in the country were, during the Covid-19 era, grappling with increasing numbers of prisoners, which could contribute to upsurge in Covid-19 infections.
“We want the law amended so that the exercise is conducted twice a year to help decongest our prisons, which could become spreaders of Covid-19,” Mr Sett said.
The residents also expressed the need for the services to be devolved and the constitution of an all-inclusive county advisory committee comprising stakeholders from all sectors, for transparency, to guide the Power of Mercy Advisory Committee (Pomac) before pardoning convicts.
Mr Noor Juma, a youth leader, called for consideration of youthful convicts saying unlike the old, they are productive and will positively contribute to the growth of the country’s economy.
“Besides the old, we want youths considered for the pardon because they are energetic and will immensely contribute to the growth of our economy,” Mr Juma said.
They requested the government to deploy more pardon officers to the counties to sensitise residents on the process.
The pardon officers are stationed at the prisons and report directly to Pomac, advise internal mechanisms at the correctional facilities and assist applicants to prepare petitions.
“The pardon officers should not just stay at the prisons but attend public barazas and other community forums to sensitise our people on the power of mercy,” Mr Ismael Galma, the Isiolo parents association chair said.
Mr Sett said religious teachings should be inculcated in the convicts so that they are transformed by the time they are released either through the president's pardon or upon expiry of their jail terms.
They asked the government to increase allocation to the prisons for the development of their infrastructure so that prisoners have a conducive environment.
POMAC CEO Dr Lydia Muriuki said the Taskforce on review of the laws will look into the raised issues specifically on youthful convicts and measures how to assist those released get back to their normal lives and be embraced back to the community.