Iranian Judges Dealing Differently With Crime

Iranian Judges Dealing Differently With CrimeIranian Judges Dealing Differently With Crime

Social scientists believe that imprisonment should be the last resort while dealing with several types of crimes and offences.

In many cases equally effective alternative options to detention exist, and therefore default or failure to fulfill an obligation should not always lead to imprisonment, and be used as the last option.  

According to the Islamic penal code, revised in May 2005, for intentional and unintentional offenders sentenced to less than three months and less than two years, respectively, the use of alternative punishment is compulsory.

Additionally, alternative punishment for offenders sentenced from six months to one year is optional, and the decision rests with the court, the Persian language newspaper ‘Iran’ reported.

Use of alternative punishment instead of imprisonment can effectively help reduce the number of inmates since overcrowded prisons can negatively affect the rights and wellbeing of prisoners.

Also, prisoners’ families may face many social stigmas and dilemma after detention of a family member like the head of the household. This can cause financial instability, poverty, debt and potential relocation following imprisonment. It is reported that 80% of prisoners are from the disadvantaged sections of the society.

Alternative punishment usually includes providing social services in different institutions, cash penalties and suspension of some social and economic rights.

 Community Service

More and more Iranian judges are handing out innovative alternative sentences for eligible offenders. Recently, a judge in Susangerd city (also known as Dasht-e-Azadegan) in Khuzestan Province sentenced an offender to plant 68 trees in the same location where he had illegally chopped 34 fifteen-year old trees, and to take care of them for two years.

He was also sentenced to paying cash fine (the fine for each centimeter of a felled tree with a diameter of more than 100 cm is $1700) and one-day imprisonment, said Mehrshad Ahmadvand, head of the Susangerd Department of Environment (DoE).

“The offender culled 34 trees to make the signs near his gas station more visible to passing drivers and motorists,” the judge said, adding that as a punishment, the offender will plant new trees and pay for the damages.

In another similar case, a judge sentenced a herdsman to plant trees for a month for illegal grazing of his sheep and goats in a protected forest area. “A prison sentence can have punitive consequences for families and that’s why we should seek alternatives to incarceration,” said the judge, Hamidreza Eskandari.

“We usually determine whether to impose alternative sentences based on different factors including, type and severity of the crime, the age of the offender, his criminal history and financial condition.”

Other examples of community service ordered by judges for petty criminals include landscaping, park cleaning, painting street walls, and sweeping up around public buildings.

  Alternative Penalties for Women

Alternative penalty instead of prison for women has also been accepted by the judiciary upon a recommendation by the Vice Presidency for Women and Family Affairs.

“Reducing prisoner numbers is on top of the judiciary’s agenda, which has agreed to several suggestions for alternate punishment to imprisonment,” said Vice President Shahindokht Molaverdi via her Telegram channel recently but didn’t specify what they entailed.

She said that revisions in the penalties would mainly target drug-related crime. “Under a memorandum of understanding with the Haami Society (which supports families of prisoners), certain programs are underway to support women whose husbands are locked up.”

Recently, Asghar Jahangir, head of Iran’s Prisons Organization said there are more than 220,000 inmates in the country’s prisons which have capacity to accommodate only 80,000 inmates. “Alternative sentencing can effectively reduce the prison population.”

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