County-based committees will assist the Power of Mercy Advisory Committee (POMAC) in scrutinizing the backgrounds of inmates set for presidential pardon to ensure that the noble exercise was credible.
The county committee is expected to enhance transparency and eliminate graft during the process to ensure that only deserving convicts were granted pardon.
This was one of the key proposals at a public participation forum at Mwatate on Wednesday during a hearing by POMAC to review sections of Article 133 of the constitution. The POMAC derives its mandate from the article.
In the hearing, POMAC members heard that the pardon process as currently conducted had weaknesses that could be exploited to release undeserving inmates from prisons.
Mwatate Deputy County Commissioner Damaris Kimondo said the multi-sectoral county committee will bring onboard all relevant government agencies and will do a thorough background checks and history of any inmate who had applied for release.
The County committee, set to be chaired by the County Commissioner, will seek views from heads of Nyumba Kumi, village elders and others grassroots leaders before making a final recommendation to the POMAC on the suitability of inmates to be granted pardon.
“The County committee can scrutinize and make sound recommendations to POMAC on the suitability of an inmate to be granted freedom. This will ensure that POMAC will get an objective and informed report on any candidate,” she said.
Dr. Lydia Muriuki, the Chief Executive Officer of POMAC, said the county-based committee was a sound proposal and would be incorporated in the final draft after the public participation exercise was concluded.
Already, the committee has toured 21 counties and is set to seek public views from three more counties before the week ends. “We are receiving very insightful proposals that we will put into the final draft of reviewed sections of article 133,” said the CEO.
POMAC is a constitutional body that advises the president on inmates who should be granted freedom after serving jail terms.
Currently, a parole officer based at the prison is a vital link in the pardoning process. The officer writes a report on inmates who qualify for pardon which is then acted upon by the POMAC. There is minimal involvement by other agencies.
In the new proposal, the county committee will independently conduct a deeper scrutiny of an inmate and make a report to the POMAC.
“This is a good idea to safeguard against the possibility of undeserving felons gaining their freedom through concealment,” said the CEO.
Apart from enhancing the scrutiny to inmates, the county committee will also collaborate with the Directorate of Criminal Investigation (DCI) to vouch for reformed convicts who might need certificate of good conduct to apply for jobs and other opportunities.
Muriuki noted that pardoned inmates had challenges getting certificates of good conduct despite their reformed ways. She said that this could be addressed by reports from the county multi-agency committee to the DCI.
“The committee will also be doing reports to DCI if one an inmate they recommended for pardon is seeking a certificate of good conduct which is a vital document currently,” she explained.
Human rights activists however said that the pardon should not be granted without any conditions attached to it.
Mr. Abdulraman Farah, a rights activist, said pardoned jailbirds should be directed to engage in community service as part of restitution to the aggrieved community. “They might be given a role to plant and care for trees as part of their community rehabilitation program,” he said.
He further stated that inmates jailed for serious crimes including defilement, rape, terrorism, premeditated murder and other gross violation of human rights should never qualify for pardon.
“The committee should only pardon those crimes that never had severe adverse consequences to the community,” he said. There was also a proposal of formation of a parole board to evaluate requests by inmates to be granted pardon.