Planned amendment could extend community service by 90 days

PETALING JAYA: Anyone convicted for a minor offence can now expect to spend an additional 90 working days serving the community.

Under the Compulsory Attendance Order Act 1954, a person convicted for offences such as failing to display prices of goods or for using drugs is required to spend time on community service work instead of behind bars.

Under a proposed amendment, likely to be tabled in Parliament in March, the judge is authorised to extend the sentence by up to 90 working days.

“That means time (for community service) will be lengthened at the judge’s discretion,” according to Prisons Department deputy director-general (community) Datuk Abdul Aziz Abdul Razak.

Abdul Aziz told theSun recently that an offender who is required to perform community service duties under a compulsory attendance order (CAO) will have to work for four hours a day but they get weekends and public holidays off.

To top it off, the offender will be entitled to a 1/6 remission on his sentence under another amendment to the same act.

That means if he is sentenced to two months of community service work, he will serve a total of only 34 days, taking into consideration the remission, weekends and public holidays.

This option for CAO is to be given only to adult offenders.

Abdul Aziz said a person serving a sentence that requires them to perform community service will have to show up at a specific CAO centre daily and be given a task to perform.

To identify them as a convicted person who is serving a sentence, they are required to wear a purple vest with the initial “PKW” emblazoned on it. “PKW” stands for “Perintah Kehadiran Wajib” or “compulsory attendance”.

Abdul Aziz said a parole officer would determine the day’s activities for the offender. “If he fails to comply, he gets a verbal warning, and if he fails to comply a second time, he gets a warning letter,” he said. “He will be taken to court for a third transgression.”

A person on community service may be required to work during the day or night, depending on where he is needed.

“For instance, during the fasting month, he could be asked to help set up and man food stalls near the mosque or prepare prayer mats for worshippers,” Abdul Aziz said.

Once he has finished work, the offender is free to spend his time as he wishes.

Abdul Aziz stressed that the move was necessary to address the problem of overcrowding in prisons. The number of inmates in all prisons in the country has risen from 34,000 in 2010 to 67,000 today.

He believes the CAO is more effective than imprisonment in rehabilitating offenders. “We are not trying to shame them. We just want to make them understand that there are consequences when they break the law,” he said.

Aziz cited the success achieved in the collaboration with the Kota Kinabalu City Hall that has former convicts engaged as “floating staff”.

A total of 4,026 offenders have undergone the programme. Currently, 111 of them are serving their sentences under the CAO.

Among the more prominent cases are that of wedding planner “Kiki” who performed three months of community service and was fined RM5,000 for damaging a man’s car with a steering lock, and rapper Namewee who had to perform three months of community service instead of being sent to jail for three months for using abusive language towards a Tenaga Nasional Bhd officer.