The Ministry of Justice has prepared a study to expand the scope of community service as a penalty for minor offenders as an alternative to jail sentences lasting up to nine months, Phileleftheros reports.
The plan would resolve multiple issues, including the Central Prison’s overpopulation problem — there are currently 700 inmates while normal capacity is 560 — as well as the social stigma carried after release by people who have only committed minor offences.
According to a competent source, it has yet to be decided how many hours and what type of community service should be served for each type of offence.
Speaking of traffic offenders, the same source told Phileleftheros that today people breaching traffic legislation are sent to jail from a few days to a few months, while the programme they could attend as an alternative will soon be available; the School for Traffic Offenders was approved by the House in May 2018 and aims to replace jail sentence with road awareness courses.
Legislation to penalise minor offenders with community service has been around for some time, it was said, but courts have not been urged to use it.
Prisoners serving short-term sentences currently make up about 1/3 of all prisoners in Cyprus.
To put MoJ’s new plans into effect, the law would need to be amended to expand the list of criteria that need to be met for a prisoner to be sentenced to community service instead of a jail term. The Ministry of Justice will be meeting soon with the House Committee on Legal Affairs to discuss these amendments.