Malaysia needs a criminal justice council

Prison

There is a need to set up a criminal justice council for Malaysia.

The establishment of this council could be an important step in addressing various issues within the criminal justice system in civil democratic societies like Malaysia.

There are similar councils in other countries, including the United Kingdom. The proposed Malaysian criminal justice council could provide a platform for key stakeholders, including policymakers, scholars, experts, law enforcement, and community representatives, to come together and discuss challenges, identify areas for improvement, and develop evidence-based solutions.

Recently, in Malaysia, there have been many questions raised regarding the possibility of home detention for the currently incarcerated former prime minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak.

There are those who support the home detention for Najib, although his sentence has been drastically reduced by the Pardons Board. There are also those who question the legality of such a move, especially without clear-cut legal provisions in the criminal justice system.

Another recent issue that has drawn public outcry is crime victims withdrawing their initial police reports. This could be due to threats, intimidation, fear of reprisals, or other related factors.

This is indeed an extremely unethical and troubling practice that goes against the principles of a fair and just legal system. Victims should be able to report crimes without fear of coercion or undue influence from authorities or powerful figures in society. It is an important issue that deserves the attention of the proposed criminal justice council to protect the rights and safety of all citizens.

If set up, the criminal justice council must conduct comprehensive reviews of the criminal justice system. The council could analyse data, identify trends, and assess the effectiveness of current policies and practices.

The council must propose reforms and policy changes without fear or favour. Based on their findings, the council could recommend legislative, administrative, or procedural changes to address systemic problems, such as disparities in sentencing, home detention, whipping, overcrowding in prisons, or issues related to rehabilitation and reintegration of offenders.

It will also be responsible for facilitating stakeholder collaboration. The council could serve as a platform for open dialogue and collaboration among different actors in the criminal justice system, fostering a more coordinated and holistic approach to addressing challenges.

In addition, it can also play an effective role in promoting public engagement and transparency. The council could engage with the public, gather community feedback, and ensure that the decision-making process is transparent and accountable.

The council must also monitor and evaluate the implementation of reforms, including tracking the progress and impact of any implemented changes, and make further recommendations, as needed.

There are also other critical issues within Malaysia’s criminal justice system that the council can comprehensively address. This includes analysing racial, socioeconomic, and other disparities in arrest, prosecution, sentencing, and incarceration rates.

The treatment and protection of the rights of all individuals within the criminal justice system is crucial.

The proposed council can look into issues concerning reviewing the necessity and urgency to implement sentencing guidelines and exploring alternatives to lengthy prison sentences, such as restorative justice, community-based programmes, and rehabilitation.

There is also a need to address issues related to mandatory minimum sentences and the disproportionate impact on certain populations.

Another critical area to work on is prison reform. The council can make recommendations in improving prison conditions and addressing overcrowding, lack of rehabilitation programmes, and high recidivism rates.

It must also explore alternatives to incarceration, such as community-based treatment and supervision programmes for non-violent, non-serious, and first-time offenders. The issue of re-entry and reintegration of convicted offenders into society is also another aspect that must be considered.

Priority must be given to developing comprehensive programmes and support systems to facilitate the successful reintegration of formerly incarcerated individuals into their communities.

Addressing barriers to employment, housing, and access to social services for ex-offenders must also be on the agenda of reform.

Another major, and a priority area is mental health and substance abuse. This involves improving the identification and treatment of mental health and substance abuse issues, within the criminal justice system.

There is also a critical need in developing specialised courts and diversion programmes to address the needs of individuals with mental health or addiction challenges.

The council must also have the jurisdiction to review policing and community relations. This includes reviewing police practices, training, and accountability measures to build trust and strengthen the relationship between law enforcement and the communities they serve.

Another important area related to policing is strategies to de-escalate conflicts and address issues of police use of force.

This council should have the jurisdiction to address the unique needs and challenges of the juvenile justice system, including issues related to rehabilitation, education, and family support. It is crucial to explore alternatives to incarceration and ensure a focus on restorative and rehabilitative approaches.

The council can also look into matters related to data collection, analysis, and sharing, to better understand the criminal justice system’s performance.

By comprehensively addressing these key areas, the setting up of a criminal justice council can contribute to the development of a more just, equitable, and effective criminal justice system in Malaysia Madani.

The views expressed here are the personal opinion of the writer and do not necessarily represent that of Twentytwo13.

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