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Community Service as a Punishment

08.06.2015

Natia Gogolashvili

According to the information of the State Agency for Non-Custodial Sentences and Probation of Ministry of Corrections and Legal Assistance of Georgia, usage of community service as a non-custodial sentence has been increased since 2012. According to the official data, this type of sentence was used for 72 cases in 2012, for 260 cases in 2013, for 272 cases in 2014, and in 2015 332 cases are recorded. 

Article 44 of Criminal Code of Georgia defines community service as an unpaid labor of a convict. The local self-government authority defines the type of the labor. Community service shall be appointed for a period of 40 to 800 hours. If a plea bargain is agreed between parties, the community service may be appointed for longer period. Daily duration of the labor must not exceed 8 hours. 
According to the deputy head of the National Probation Agency, Teimuraz Maghradze, this type of alternative sentence has been more frequently used for last 5 years. 

“Several years ago, community service existed in the justice system as an alternative sentence, but it was not enforced in practice. There was no authority that could execute this sentence. Few years ago, when probation service took this obligation, many issues aroused. It is important that this kind of sentence helped socialization-rehabilitation of a person. When we receive the case and it is appointed to the officer, first of all the health condition, employment, marital status of the person etc. are taken into account. A person is assigned to different kind of labor according to their individual needs. There are cases when we offer less than 6-hour work to a person. Of course, in this case, the number of working days is increased, but this also happens in accordance with the needs of the person, because there are cases when a person has another job or cannot work more because of family condition. As for the socially indigent persons who come to us with this sentence, they receive money for food per diem,”- says Teimuraz Maghradze. 

Associate Professor of Tbilisi State University, Moris Shalikishvili talks about long duration of community services. According to him, community service shall be established within reasonable terms and shall not humiliate an honor of violators or their families. 

“Eight hundred hours of community service means 5 months of unpaid labor. One of the norms of European regulations states that the nature, content and methods of sanction and procedure enforcement shall not humiliate an honor of violators or their families, and shall not disturb them. Taking into account the social conditions in Georgia, the convicted should not say that they prefer being in prison than working 5 months for free. Culprits should know what to expect when they commit a particular crime. Culprits shall have a sense that they are not the object of justice. Attitude towards to an alternative sentence sounds like this –“it is good as long as they did not end up in prison”. This is wrong and bad attitude. Proportionality between being in prison and community service shall be reasonable,”- says Moris Shakikashvili. 

According to Shalikashvili, while using the alternative sentences, the following practical problems might arise: lack of professional skills of culprits, mentality issue, lack of working places, general motivation of culprits, low level of education of culprits, stigmatization of culprits, and social responsibility of private companies. 

According to the deputy head of National Probation Agency, there is no employment issue in Georgia when it comes to community service. 
“Basically, we do not have an employment issue in Georgia when it comes to community service. We have contracts with the City hall and municipalities. After we receive the information from the court about particular culprits and amount of hours that they have to work, we determine the place and time, and how the job can be implemented. In the case of a plea bargain, we also recommend the short-term community service. If the convicted breaches the agreement, we are forced to submit a petition to the court and take the convicted back to prison or impose fine. Our solicitation with the court decreases annually. This year we have only 18 cases,” _says Teimuraz Maghradze. 

“According to the statistics, in 70% of cases the community service is used based on a plea bargain. This means, that prosecutors actively use the community service as a term for a plea bargain. However, often, culprits disagree this term, because they are not aware of job specifics, they do not know when the sentence starts or ends, how many hours they have to work etc. That is why culprits refuse to use this term via plea bargain. Accordingly, it is difficult for prosecutors to determine working hours, when they do not know what type of job is assigned to the culprit,” _ says the Head of the Analytical Division of the Chief Prosecutor’s Office of Georgia, Londa Toloraia. 

Since the enactment of the Imprisonment Code, the local councils have been created in the Ministry of Corrections and Legal Assistance. These are bodies that discuss the issues of release from serving a sentence on parole and replacing the remaining part of the sentence with the lighter one. Number of councils and their territorial differentiation was defined as follows: First Local Council of East Georgia, Second Local Councils of West Georgia, Local Council of West Georgia, Local Council for Juvenile Cases, Local Council for Cases of Women Culprits. 

The Head of Legal Provision Department of Ministry of Corrections and Legal Assistance, Aleksandre Darakhvelidze, who is also the Chair of the First Local Council of East Georgia, says that culprits often have no clear idea about Community Service. 

“It is natural that prisoners want to leave the prison earlier and it does not matter for them how it happens, but sometimes they do not realize what the replacement of imprisonment with the community service means. For example, there was a case, when one of the prisoners thought that it would have been a community service if he started private business and employed relatives. However, when this prisoner found out what this kind of sentence means, he/she canceled the request,”- says Aleksandre Darakhvelidze. 

Juveniles can be released from serving sentence on parole only if they have served: a) not less than one-third of their sentence for misdemeanors; b) not less than half of the sentence for a serious crime; c) not less than two-thirds of their sentence for an especially serious crime. 

As for women prisoners, community service shall not be imposed to a pregnant woman, a woman who has less than seven year old child and to persons of retirement age. Member of Professional Union on Psychologists, Ana Kanjaria thinks that this fact is a discrimination against women.  

“We have interviewed 141 women out of 241. The other refused, because they think that replacement of sentence is hopeless. According to them, this does not happen in practice. 121 women agree to replace their remaining sentence with community service. None of this women had this proposal in the Court,”- says Ana Kanjaria.

Penal Reform International organized discussion on replacement of custodial sentence with community service on May 28.

This article was published within the frameworks of the project Monitoring State of Women and Juvenile Prisoners in Georgia which is implemented by Human Rights Center in partnership with Office of Public Defender of Georgia, by the financial support of Embassy of Bulgaria.
The article does not necessarily reflect the views of the donor. Human Rights Center bears sole responsibility for the content of the report.


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