Elusive Queen of Ivory at last is in our prisons!

THE adage that prisons are for the poor people while the rich ones are so elusive to go to prisons is a forgone illusion given the recent conviction of the queen of ivory Yang Leng Glan. This Chinese lady was convicted for organized crime and unlawful dealing with 860 pieces of elephant tusks, valued over 13 bn shillings requiring her to serve a sentence of not less than 15 years.

This conviction was hailed globally due to Glan’s notoriety in criminal activities and seems to have a wide global network of accessories. She is described to have been the most notorious ivory tusk trafficker in East Africa. She ran a sophisticated chain between East Africa and China for about ten years. No doubt she is a rich woman expected to be rehabilitated in our Tanzanian prisons!

Let alone Glan, our prisons right now are flooded with prisoners originating from white collar crimes though most of them are prisoners awaiting trial but eventually would end up in conviction. With light touch, I would think that infamous proposal by Parliamentary Standing Committee on Justice and Constitutional Affairs of introducing conjugal visits in prison were on the anticipation of this!

It could be true because prisons are normally improved with a purpose; I know one incidence whereby the Inspector- General of Police in one of the African countries was convicted and put in prisons, fortunately he won his appeal. Then he was made to be the Commissioner of Prisons of that very country. Indeed he came up with several renovations in that country’s prisons making it one of the best Correctional systems worth emulating in Africa.

The world today believes in getting smart to the crime rather than getting tough to it. In this era of science and technology, it does not work for the criminal justice system to get tough to the crime but it is expected to tackle crimes intelligently with well researched data on best practices so as in incarnation.

It is unnecessarily expensive to get tough to the crime and its impact to both criminals and the state budgets are profound while doing little to increase the public safety. Furthermore, the so-called toughness to the crime imposes enormous costs on public funds and can impede economic development.

It is expensive to maintain these people once convicted, health wise, normally as most of them due to their life styles would be suffering from heart problems, stress, diabetes which is another liability to the government. Would these people be able to feed themselves as the current government requirement?

I think that criminal adage here may be observed and addressed which believes in, “Offender may commit a crime but may not be arrested. If arrested may not be convicted, if convicted may not stay long in prison.” Yes may not stay long in prison through first, the normal one third remission of the sentence, the appeal, parole, community service and the presidential reprieve all these are conditional releases which will not make him stay longer in prisons! Any need to review these conditional releases to make them even better!

Probably you may remember there was a high profile case in which senior government officials and politicians were involved some few years back that ended up with community service sanctions!

In this case probably there is a need to review our penal system with a view to reducing the overuse of imprisonment and increase alternative strategies to crime; shifting resources to crime prevention and social interventions. That is how to get smart to the crime as opposed of getting harsh and tough to it, the “nyakua nyakua theory!”

It does not make sense to feed a horde of 35,000 prisoners daily and taking care of their other social amenities! At the end of their sentences they walk back home just as they went in the prisons and probably with enhanced criminal attitude acquired during their incarceration.

The finite resource base cannot effectively sustain equal attention to all offenders in their treatment. Why not try other smart options which have been proved to work very effectively and efficiently in addressing reoffending attitudes of criminals

The concept known as “reintegrative shaming and restorative justice” is the way to go to the prevention of those white collar crimes with minimal expenses. Just like in other countries for those low risk prisoners mostly with white collar crimes are given what is known as periodical imprisonment and house arrest.

Such prisoners stay in house arrest and report to prison every Friday evening and leave the prisons on Sunday evenings for a given period of the sentence.

In one of the United Nation’s Congresses on Crime Prevention and criminal Justice, it was revealed that the global criminal justice was in a crisis. That was in the twelfth United Nations Congress on Crime Prevention and Criminal Justice held at Salvador, Brazil April 2010.

The criminal justice system was said to be in a crisis as the Police came under fire from well-equipped, well-connected criminals who hired the world’s best lawyers to keep them out of jail and the police’s salaries were often low and the temptation were high to accept bribes. And for prosecutors, they lacked the skills and equipment to collect evidence while judges were intimidated, bribed and even murdered.

Overcrowded prisons had become ‘incubators’ of infections and universities of crime, and money laundering had corrupted entire economic sectors. Only the material cost and the suffering of crimes were evidently showing that the global governance had failed to keep pace with economic globalization, allowing international mafias to prosper.

The case of this Chinese Lady, Queen of Ivory with her network has opened up and shows us that mafias are with us. This should be a tip in the iceberg and that our criminal justice system, Police Prisons, Prosecution and Judiciary should be in the watch.

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