New bill proposes open jail

Published On: January 19, 2017 07:46 AM NPT By: Ashok Dahal  | @ashokpillar

KATHMANDU, Jan 19: A parliamentary panel is close to finalizing a bill on sentencing, which envisions an open jail system for the first time in the country. Once the bill becomes law, the authorities concerned can deploy prisoners in various social activities if the prisoners so wish.

The bill, which is under discussion at the Legislative Committee of parliament, also has a provision allowing those serving jail terms to go on parole to engage in some work. 

Any prisoner serving less than six months will be given two options - serve out the sentence in prison or do social work. 

However, the court will take into account various things including the type of offence, the age of the offender and other background facts before allowing him to choose from the two options, according to the draft bill.

“For instance, the court can order certain types of offenders to work in the Bagmati cleaning campaign for a certain number of hours a day or week over a certain period,” said coordinator of the sub-committee Ram Narayan Bidari.

However, if any offender doing social work in lieu of time in jail fails to accomplish the given task, the court can annul the parole and put him behind bars again. A parole board will be formed to oversee the activities of such offenders.

Likewise, the new bill has a provision for sending someone given less than two month in jail to a rehabilitation center instead. 

However, those jailed for serious crimes including murder, rape, trafficking of arms and ammunition, human trafficking, corruption, abduction and robbery, will not get the option of serving their sentence outside jail. 

Offenders in drugs-related cases can be sent to rehabilitation centers. The new law will also have a provision of allowing those involved in specified crimes to serve their term staying in the prison only during nighttime or at the weekends. 

Any offender who has served two-thirds of a total jail term in prison and has shown good behavior will be allowed to serve the remainder of the term in open jail. “The open jail system envisions an offender serving out a jail term working at a place assigned by the jail authorities,” reads the draft bill. 

“It is believed that China has deployed such types of offenders at some of the development projects being carried out in Nepal. If parliament endorsed the draft Nepal can also start such a practice,” said Bidari.

In another provision, the bill has proposed deploying offenders above 18 years and physically able in public works if they agree to such deployment. The bill provisions that if a prisoner donates labor for one day it will be considered the equivalent of two days served in jail. 

Likewise, an offender given more than one year in jail  and has already served two-thirds of the sentence can be appointed to the parole board at the recommendation of the district court. 

However, any offender serving a life sentence or a sentence for grave crimes such as corruption, rape or human trafficking cannot be appointed to the board. 

A new provision also proposes allowing any offender given more than a year in jail and showing good conduct to visit family and attend various cultural and social activities if they are in the last six months of their total jail term.

The new bill also proposes a separate hearing in court to pronounce sentence after determining the verdict on an accused. Currently, the same hearing determines both verdict and sentence.

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