Prison Alternative Punishments in Iran
According to article 66 of the Islamic Penal Code of 2013, “the perpetrators of intentional crimes whose maximum legal punishment is from 91 days to 6 months, will be sentenced to prison alternative punishments.” Of course the application of this article is for those offenders who do not have criminal records, or more than five years have passed from their previous criminal record.
One of the most important achievements of the new Islamic Penal Code (2013), is prison alternative punishments and doing community service. Prior to this, only according to article 17 of the previous Islamic Penal Code the judge could sentence the offender to cash fines, shutting down the business, suspension of trading license, and denial of social rights and exile to a specified location, prevention of living in certain places and so on, all as prison alternative punishments. But this article of the law could not become a single judicial procedure, and only in specific cases, the judges would sentence juvenile offenders to planting trees or learning the Koran.
But with a more serious application of the new law, a new environment has been created for judges to issue prison alternative sentences and reduce the prisoner population. The application of prison alternative punishment for working people and under 18 year olds, 4 hours for working people and 8 hours a day for unemployed individuals has been specified in various fields of activities, who must carry out. The use of educated or experienced people in society is another prison alternative punishment.
According to the guidelines of this law, free public service or community service can be a prison alternative punishment, can be categorised in six points:
1 – Educational matters that include, literacy education, scientific, cultural, religious, arts, sports and skills and profession training, life style and fundamental skills training.
2 – Health and medical treatment that include diagnosis and treatment, rehabilitation, midwifery, nursing, taking care of senior citizens, the disabled and children, mental health treatment and counselling, environmental health and addiction treatment.
3 – Technical and professional matters that include working in workshops, factories, industries associated to accepting institutions and their technical departments.
4 – Services such as janitor of accepting institutions, cleaning public places, protections and keeping green environments and city parks, and gardening, repairing public and government transportation vehicles, taking care of sports centres etc.
5 – Labouring matters that include construction sites, roadworks, mines, the fisheries, farms, dam construction and other infrastructure projects belonging to accepting institutions.
6 – Farming, dairy farming, park ranger that includes planting trees, gardening, harvesting, poultry farming, fish farming and doing jobs at accepting institutions, planting institutes and their related industries.
Implementation of Project Pilot in Kermanshah
The prison alternative punishment project began in 2015 in Kermanshah province with the aim of reducing the prison population. In an interview with Mizan, the director general of the Kermanshah Province Justice Department says: “The Islamic Penal Code legislator for minor and light offenses and offenses that are not intentional, such as traffic accidents and medical related misconducts which are nonintentional, and intentional crimes that have up to six months imprisonment sentences, has determined prison alternative punishments.”
According to the law individuals who have the necessary conditions will do community service and this prison alternative punishment from agreeing institutions results in a reduction of the number of individuals going to prison. A prison must be a place for the punishment of evil individuals and violent criminals, and individuals must not go prison for misdemeanour crimes.
To monitor the performance of those sentenced to community service, the institution that takes the convict, as well as observing security and protection matters with regards to putting the convict to work, while monitoring the performance of the convicts, the institution must write a monthly report on the convicts on when the job starts and how the services are provided that include the number of hours per day, absentee levels and being late to work, any form of disorder and negligence in doing the service and satisfaction levels of the accepting institution and their customers from the services presented.
Other Examples of Prison Alternative Punishment
A court in Fars Province, sentenced a man who had killed a donkey for entering his farm to learning 20 religious hadiths in relation with kindness and good treatment of animals and also to keep an ownerless donkey for 3 months.
Following the trespassing of 6 youths into a protected area and illegal hunting in Fars Province, another judge sentenced them to writing an article on the importance of the environment.
A court in Hamadan, sentenced 2 natural resources protestors to 2 years suspended sentence and also to purchase and donation of a book on natural resources laws to the library of a village.
A court in Rasht sentenced the guilty to collecting 3.5 tonnes of garbage, which was one of the most interesting prison alternative punishments which was implemented with the enforcement of the new criminal prosecution law in Gilan Province.
In another casefile, 3 young brothers who in spite of having sound financial conditions were stealing car stereo equipment, through the tact of a juvenile court judge, have now turned into three young engineers. Following studying psychology, the case judge noticed that the three brothers enjoyed the stress and thrills of their actions, and thus instead of sending them to prison, he sentenced each one to prison alternative punishments that included house arrests. One of the brothers who had computer knowledge was made to teach computers to some others.
The Correction and Rehabilitation Center is also another place where alternative punishments are carried out. The director general of Tehran Province Prisons says: “the Correction and Rehabilitation Center is one of places where a large number of the convicted spend time in due to enforcement of prison alternative sentences, in other words they earn a profession throughout the day and some of them spend the nights with their families under the authorities supervision. Also some youths are only obliged to spend some days of the week in the centre, while they go back to their homes the remainder of the week, and this is to prevent any forms of harm being inflicted on the individuals.
The Assistance of All Centres and Encouragement of Alternative Punishments
According to justice experts in Iran, for the better implementation of the aims of these new laws, those that are convicted to prison alternative punishments must be utilised in education, health, technical and professional skills, and services that include guarding, labouring and farming.
The Health, Treatment and Medical Training, Sports and Youth, Cooperatives, Employment and Social Welfare, Islamic Guidance and Culture, Sciences, Research and Technology, Agriculture, Roads and Urban Development, Industries, Mine and Commerce, Energy and Oil Ministries, and also their associate organizations and institutions can take on those that have been sentenced to prison alternative punishments. Alongside these centres, justice departments can make use of nongovernmental consultative and executive survives.
University professor, Dr. Abbas Tadayon also pointed out the reiteration of the head of the Judiciary on the necessity to reduce unnecessary imprisonments through prison alternative punishments, and said: “In this regard, the training of judges is top priority and only through a change in the viewpoints of judges can there be a distance from imprisonment punishments and consider alternative punishments.”