The judiciary has sworn-in a total of 50 prisons officers at the rank of Assistant Superintendent of Prisons(ASP) who will act as justices of the peace in the various prisons around the country.
A justice of the peace has the same powers and duties as a magistrate to administer oaths and affirmations, to release on bail, to remand in custody, to take affidavits, to attest signatures and to certify to copies of documents, and shall exercise those powers in like manner and take the same fees therefor on behalf of government.
On Friday, Justice Alexandra Nkonge Rugadya who represented the Principal Judge presided over the ceremony where the 50 officers took oath to start work as justices of the peace.
“Being prisons officers, you are strategically placed to help prisoners access justice. Majority of the prisoners can’t afford these services because they are poor and ignorant of the rules of court regarding bail and appeals. Your appointment therefore is timely to help these vulnerable people access justice in several ways,” Justice Nkonge told the new justices of the peace.
She noted that they have the power to commission affidavits for prisoners seeking to apply for bail especially in offences bailable by the High Court since many are at the mercy of the system without knowing the procedure in applying for bail.
Justice Rugadya noted that the justices of the peace are expected to come in handy to help prisoners with this service.
“It is a noble task(helping them apply for bail) rendered to people a number of whom may be innocent. Some are petty offenders and many others have wronged the society. It is your duty and obligation to avail yourselves to offer these service.”
The High Court judge said on several occasions, prisoners are transferred from remand to farm prisons before filing appeals within the mandatory time, noting that it is the duty of the justices of the peace to help out the inmates during this process.
“Because they are poor, they cannot afford and access lawyers, the time within which to appeal elapses before they file appeals. Such prisoners can only file applications to appeal out of time but are required to explain the cause of the delay by way of affidavit which may be commissioned by the commissioner of oaths and in this case, the justices of the peace.”
Justice Nkonge said it is important that every prison unit be it a remand facility or prison farm to have at least one justice of the peace to render the services of commissioning oaths and affidavits required by prisoners.
Milton Tiyo, the acting director correctional services who represented the Commissioner General of Prisons said the newly sworn in justices of the peace will also help adjudicate disciplinary cases among prisons officers.
“The officers will play a crucial role ensuring justice for not only prisoners but also among fellow prisons officers,” Tiyo said.
“Don’t be tempted to use your powers to engage in corruption. You know what happens when you are involved in corruption.”
He said most of the justices of the peace are officers in charge of prisons are therefore will help cover a wider part of the country where there are prisons.