The decision to levy instant fines against traffic offenders, whose implementation is due in a month, is most welcome.
Interior CS Fred Matiang’i says the move is premised on the realisation that it costs more to keep traffic offenders in prison than what they would pay in fines. Further, the move will go a long way to decongest prisons, which are choking with inmates, most of whom are convicted for petty offences for which they could do community work from their homes.
Notably, our prisons hold 55,000 inmates as at March, including remand prisoners, which constitutes an occupancy level of 201.1 per cent. Any move to decongest them is, therefore, welcome.
Granted, our prisons are supposed to play correctional roles and rehabilitate offenders to become useful citizens. But that noble objective has not been realised, not least because persons who serve time meet hard-core criminals who induct them, in a manner of speaking, into the world of serious crime, thus defeating the ideal of rehabilitation.
In addition, offenders who are released from gaols, either through presidential pardon or after completing jail terms find it hard to integrate into society because they are rejected by the same communities they depend on to provide a soft landing.
It is for these reasons that we find it apt that petty offenders, in this case traffic-related, be made to pay instant fines, rather than subject them to lengthy court cases and perhaps jail.
It is also tedious, cumbersome and illogical that a person guilty of, say, not carrying his driver’s licence should be made to spend a night in a police cell, go to court, plead not guilty and go through a court case that could take months.
Most traffic offences, unless related to causing death by dangerous driving, are petty and do not fall under the serious crimes category. It thus makes sense that the process of handling such offences be simplified.
The opposite of this, in which offenders fear lengthy court cases breeds fertile ground for graft, as offenders seek shortcuts, to the glee of arresting officers.
Of course, the new system will need to be closely monitored so that loopholes for lining pockets of traffic cops are eliminated.
The cornerstone of justice is premised on evidence of any wrong committed. Those with other parameters in seeking vengeance must get a taste of the law themselves. The avalanche of morbid fear the elderly in parts of this country have to shake off daily, makes a mockery of the presumption of innocent till proven guilty.