Replacing a Prison Sentence with a Fine – does this lead to increased Corruption?

For years, it has been the practice in Bosnia and Herzegovina (BiH) to replace prison sentences of up to a year with fines. A day of freedom in the Federation of BiH (FBiH) costs 100 marks, and in the Republika Srpska (RS) 50 marks. As prison capacities are overcrowded, this is an acceptable solution because it fills the budget. But, this often leads to the recurrence of crimes and increased corruption.

Replacing a prison sentence with a fine ensures the principles of legality, fairness, and humanity in the execution of the sentence. In BiH, these principles are often reduced to the fact that those who have money will redeem the sentence, while those who do not will serve their prison sentences. This is suitable for the citizens of neighboring countries, who often accept BiH citizenship in order not to serve prison sentences in Croatia and Serbia, where these possibilities do not exist.

In the FBiH, imprisonment for up to one year can be replaced by a fine. A day of freedom costs 100 marks.

“As a rule, this is for minor crimes, such as tax evasion, fraud, minor bodily injury, theft, negligent work or abuse of power article 1. It is not subject to embezzlement because it is open to the public, there are no hidden games, everything is available forinspection,” told Asim Crnalic, a lawyer.

This article has been applicable in FBiH since 2012, but there is no information from the Federal Ministry of Justice on how many people have paid the fine so far. As the court decides on the change of sentence at the request of the convict, the data of the Cantonal Court in Sarajevo show that in a year and a half, 11 people exchanged their prison sentence for a fine.

The mentioned provision in the RS was repealed in 2017 and returned to its application three months ago. The reason for that is filling the budget and speeding up court proceedings. One day of freedom costs 50 BAM.

“Since the Law on Amendments and Changes to the Criminal Code of the RS entered into force at the beginning of March this year, there are still no precise data on its application. The Ministry of Justice will monitor the application of this legal solution, ” it was announced from the Ministry of Justice of RS.

Some experts claim that such changes will intensify corrupt practices. A survey of Center for Investigative Reporting (CIN) reporters showed that civil servants, after being convicted of taking bribes, avoid prison by paying a fine. Some are willing to repeat the same crime.

“What needs to be done is an analysis and the BiH Ministry of Justice will launch that analysis, to check how many people returned to prisons, who paid their prison sentences, we will see how effective it is,” said Josip Grubesa, Minister of Justice of BiH.

The problem is that it is not known where the money collected from fines goes. Among other things, because of that, in 2019 there was an initiative in the FBiH Parliament to remove this article, but there was no reaction from the authorities.

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