A two day forum on non-custodial sentencing for Ghana has been held at Ghana
Institute of Management and Public Administration (G.I.M.P.A) to deliberate on the merits of introducing non-custodial
sentencing in Ghana with the aim of decongesting the overcrowded Prisons.
Speaking at the event, the Minister for the Interior, Honorable Mark Owen Woyongo remarked that the government of Ghana is very committed in solving the problem of overcrowding in Ghana’s Prisons. In his delivery, he said ”the human rights barometer of a country is measured by how its prisoners are treated and therefore people who do not deserve to be in custody should not be given jail terms but instead, be made to do communal services.”
He stated that reformation and rehabilitation should be the main focus and not punitive measures meted out to law offenders. He also noted that cities and towns needed more hands to do cleaning and that community service for offences such as petty stealing is the way forward in decongesting our prisons as well as the development of the country.
Addressing stakeholders at the event, the Controller General of the Ghana Prisons Service, Madam Matilda Baffour-Awuah noted that overcrowding is a key challenge of the Prisons Service and that the prisons capacity has been overstretched due to this phenomenon. She cited few advantages of non-custodial sentencing which included a decrease in the contamination rate of first time offenders by hardened criminals, reduction in the cost of taking care of prisoners so that prison will be reserved for serious offenders and hardened criminals. She further cautioned that even though non-custodial sentencing will lessen prison congestion, it will not be a reality without the right structures and resources put in place for its success if passed into law.
The Chief State Attorney, Mr. Anthony Wiredu was of the view that, Criminal Justice System needed some form of reformation in the quest to decongest our prisons. He suggested forms of sentencing such as fines, compensation, probation and conditional discharge of offenders, suspended, deferred or delayed sentences, community service and verbal sanctions as good alternatives to the already existing custodial sentencing.
According to Mr. Wiredu, a remand court would be established at Nsawam Medium Security prisons where a permanent high court judge would preside on cases especially for the remand prisoners fortnightly.
The Criminal Justice advisor to the British High Commission, Mr. Roger Coventry hinted that the British government is delighted and prepared to assist the Prisons service in its paralegal services with the aim of decongesting the prisons and work out solutions to the problem of overcrowding so as to benefit the Service as well as the Ghanaian society as a whole.
Present at the event were dignitaries, stakeholders and partners such as Dominic Sam (country director of U.N.D.P), Mr. Daniel Amankwaah (representative of N.A.C.O.B), Mrs. Adelaide Annor-Kumi (Chief Director of Ministry of Interior), Andy Ampiah Kubi (Ghana Bar Association) and other members of General Legal Council in Ghana.