Gov’t. Considers Non-Custodial Sentence For Prisoners

Kwesi-AhwoiThe Prisons Service is to be transformed to adopt non-custodial Sentence to reduce over-crowding in cells.
Mr Kwesi Ahwoi, Minister of the Interior, stated this in a speech read in his behalf last Saturday in Accra at the celebration of the 20th Anniversary of the Prison Ministry of the Presbyterian Church of Ghana.

“To strengthen the Criminal Justice System between 2013 and 2016, it is the intention of government to reduce overcrowding, develop and implement alternatives to imprisonment and also set up probation facilities to supervise community sanctions”, he  stated..

He said,  “the country’s prisons, are in the present day overcrowded which now exceed the original capacity by an average of over 40% adding that the congestion in the Central Prisons such as Nsawam, Kumasi, Ho and Sekondi are so horrible and prisoners have to sleep in turns”.

The Prison Ministry is a non-governmental organisation established by the Presbyterian Church of Ghana whose mission is to support the prisons administration to offer skills-training and education to prepare prisoners sufficiently for their successful social re-integration after discharge.

Mr. Ahwoi, said “the inhumane conditions of our prisons are unacceptable as a signatory of United Nations Conventions and Rules and  the best way to reduce the pressure on our prison facilities and improve living conditions of  prisoners is to reduce the emphasis on institutional detention of offenders and adopt other non-custodial measures as sanctions for offenders”.

That according to him, entailed “the sentencing policy in the country embracing the new thinking of community corrections as opposed to imprisonment”.

He said that “imprisonment throughout the world is viewed as a costly option which has led to a growing interest in alternative measures to replace custodial sentences especially in the light of successful, social reintegration of offenders”.

“ For a better justice delivery system in Ghana,” he said “alternative measures such as fines being paid as compensation to victims, community work such as requiring a convicted person to carry out paid or unpaid work for the benefit of community, house arrest or monitoring of movement by electronic devices attached to the person, treatment of addictions or health conditions, restorative justice or transformative justice which require offenders who have admitted guilt to meet the victim to describe the crime and make some recompense as well as probation which require supervision under the care of government officials, non-governmental organisations or other authority figure in the community need to be looked at”.

He urged the Ghana Prisons Service to coordinate and collaborate effectively with key players in the Criminal Justice System to find appropriate models of non-custodial measures for offenders in its bid to help reduce  prison congestion and attendant costs.

The Director-General of Prisons, Mrs. Matilda Baffour-Awuah, in her address said that the Prison Ministry had made great contributions and impacted tremendously on the lives of the inmates, especially those who availed themselves to the Ministry’s training and mentorship programmes.

“It is worthy to note that the Prison Ministry was the first to bring computer education into the prison system”, she said.
“It has to be emphasized that the government is duty bound to provide money for the service to keep the prisoners in safe custody but we should bear in mind that the government cannot put love in a person’s heart or a sense of purpose in a person’s life, which the ministry has succeeded in doing”, she added.

She assured the Ministry of her administration’s commitment to ensuring that “our relationship grows from strength to strength”. – Samuel Tsama & Paul Adjei

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