New remand prisons to be built soon— Minister

Mr Mark Woyongo [left] and Mrs Matilda Baffour Awuah[second from left] showing their dancing skills at the party Photo Michael Ayeh (3)Government is to build new prison facilities to house people who have been remanded by the courts.

Speaking at this year’s annual dinner of the Ghana Prisons Service in Accra on Friday, the Minister of the Interior, Mr. Mark Woyongo, said the initiative forms part of efforts to  decongest prisons in the country.

He said as a way of solving the overcrowding situations in the Koforidua, Sunyani, Kumasi, and Sekondi prisons, the government was considering providing new prisons in those areas.

The initiative, he said would complement the reforms being carried out by the Service to enhance conditions in the prisons to meet international standards.

Mr. Woyongo said that, government had entered into partnership with the British government to create a court solely for remand prisoners to reduce their number in the country.

He expressed concern about the overcrowding in the prisons, saying the situation bordered on human rights abuses, since it gives rise to all sorts of diseases and infections.

“Also worrying, is the over lumping together of non-convicted prisoners, who are on remand, with convicted criminals who may be dangerous and evil”, he said.

He said it is in the light of these challenges that the government has embarked on the reforms to raise the image of the Service internationally.

Mr. Woyongo said the reforms include a new non-custodial sentencing policy to grant the courts more sentencing options, thereby reducing the high prison population while checking congestion in the prisons.

“Ghana is a signatory to United Nations conventions and rules on the handling of prisoners and persons in detention, and should therefore conform services in our prisons to international standards and best practices”, he said.

Mr. Woyongo urged the Service to attach importance to the agricultural business undertaken by the prisons, adding that plans to expand and develop prisons agriculture into commercial ventures should be given a serious consideration.

“It is because of this that government has decided to inject the needed resources into the agricultural sector, to enable the Prisons Service to utilise its skills, prison labour and arable land to start serious commercial farming”, he said.

He commended the management and staff of the Service for their dedication and commitment, and urged them to work harder.

By Charles Amankwa

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