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The goal of alternative punishment is to help correct behavior in the offender and not merely to complete a task.
The goal of alternative punishment is to help correct behavior in the offender and not merely to complete a task.

Traffic Offender Put in Shoes of Victims

Imprisonment does not deter crime but institutionalizes prisoners, and at a huge cost to the state; alternative sentencing is desirable because it helps reduce recidivism

Traffic Offender Put in Shoes of Victims

A driver guilty of violating traffic laws in Bandar Abbas in Iran’s southern Hormozgan Province was sentenced to marking road lanes by the judge as punishment.

The driver was involved in a hit and run case a few days ago and is now mandated to do 270 hours of community service by painting the road surface lines. He had fled the scene after hitting pedestrians in a case of over-speeding.

The sentence was given under the Islamic Penal Code, revised in May 2005, which has made alternative punishment compulsory for intentional and unintentional offenders sentenced to less than three months and less than two years, respectively.

Traffic violations comprise a large part of cases handled by judicial system.

Social scientists believe that imprisonment should be the last resort while dealing with several types of crimes and offences. In recent years Iranian judges are handing out innovative alternative sentences for offenders.

The reason is that incarceration does not deter crime but institutionalizes prisoners, and at a huge cost to the treasury. Alternative sentencing is desirable because it helps curb recidivism by allowing offenders to avoid institutionalization and become a useful member of society, while drastically reducing correction costs for the state.

“The goal of alternative punishment is to help correct behavior in the offender and not merely to complete a task,” Judge Soleyman Afeef said in an interview with the Persian newspaper Hamshahri.

“These punishments serve several purposes and one of them is minimizing the harm to the offenders’ family and relatives,” he added.

Cash penalty is also not only ineffective in preventing crime, but adds pressure on the family by affecting their financial capacity and quality of life.

The offender in the Bandar Abbas case, who would have otherwise been sentenced to three months in jail, is a taxi driver and father of five children. “A cash penalty would have been very hard on him and the family.”

His community service is four hours per day. “He was not asked to complete the punishment in a shorter time period as he still needs to work daily and provide for his family,” Afeef noted.

“He made a mistake, and we need to give him the opportunity to make up. Confining him to prison or taking the family’s sole breadwinner only results in more social harm.”

  Nurturing Lawfulness

Alternative punishment for offenders sentenced from six months to one year is optional, and the decision rests with the court, but Afeef says the main purpose of alternative sentencing is to imbibe a culture of abiding by the rules.

“There are specific reasons behind such sentences,” he said.

The driver “will be put in the shoes of a pedestrian.” He will find himself exposed to the threat of reckless driving by other drivers while undergoing the punishment, and realize how risky his driving can be.

“It will give him the real experience and lead to correctional behavior,” Afeef deemed.

Traffic accidents cause damage to public property and traffic safety equipment such as guardrails, signs, speed bumps, etc, and small-time offenders are made to pay for the damage, but the authorities are also encouraged to pursue alternative penalties more scrupulously.

Iran has one of the highest rates of road accidents in the world. Annually over 20,000 people are killed in road accidents, with men comprising 75% of the figure, and mostly in the age group 25-40. Also more than 800,000 people are injured in road crashes.

Alternative sentences could help drivers realize the deadly impact of rash driving and the contribution they can make to safe driving and a better road traffic culture.

 

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