UAE has introduced changes to its Penal Code to replace jail terms for minor offences with community service.
Community service of up to three months will replace punishment for minor offences that would have otherwise been punishable by not more than six months or a fine, Gulf News has reported.
The community service may include unpaid work or community payback, house arrest, curfew, mandatory treatments and programmes (drug or alcohol treatment, psychological help and regular reporting to an official).
Community payback refers to activities such as cleaning the streets, schools or other voluntary work.
The new law which will take effect from next month.
Public prosecutors to oversee community service
Public prosecutors will oversee implementation of the community service and receive reports on the offenders’ performance.
The court, on recommendation from prosecutors, may order a jail term similar to the community service period if the offenders fail to discharge their duties during the community payback period.
In 2009, the Cabinet approved the federal law of alternative punishments which lists 20 offences that call for community service ranging between 20 to 240 hours.
First Arab nation to adopt such law
By applying the new code, the UAE will be the first among Arab countries to adopt such a type of law, the report added.
Legal experts said the move towards restorative justice or alternative sentencing means that some offenders avoid imprisonment with its many unwanted consequences.
They deem it beneficial for society, as it may prevent them from getting into the so-called revolving door syndrome, the inability of a person to get back to normal life after leaving prison, becoming a career criminal.
Furthermore, experts say, there are hopes that this could alleviate prison overcrowding and reduce the cost of punishment.