Pass Non-custodial Sentencing Bill – Human rights activist

Mr Kwarteng, (left) addressing the media

Mr Kwarteng, (left) addressing the media

Mr Ibrahim Oppong Kwarteng, Executive Director of Crime Check Foundation has added his voice to calls on parliament to pass the Non-custodial Sentencing Bill into law.

He said that such a law would ensure persons who are convicted for misdemeanors (minor offences) are made to undertake community services such as cleaning and desilting of gutters.

Addressing a press conference in Accra on Tuesday, Mr Kwarteng, a human rights activist and senior broadcast journalist, noted that some persons are languishing in jail for committing minor offences.

Notable of such convicts, he observed, are pregnant women and mentally unstable persons.

He said he was concerned that although the Chief Justice, Ms Sophia Abena Akuffo had recently spoken against the conviction of pregnant women, some judges still throw them into jail.

“So the question we ask our learned judges who throw pregnant women into prison is whether they are not aware of the law that requires that such women be given suspended sentences,” he said.

Mr Kwarteng whose organisation had helped pay the fines and subsequent acquittal of two convicted pregnant women, Ama Anima and Akosua Sarforwaa, said it was time the nation reconsidered spending tax payer’s money on convicts who committed misdemeanors.

The human rights activist told journalist that Crime Check Foundation would soon launch the Petty Offenders Fund which would be managed by a board of trustees to pay the fines of convicts, adding that such an intervention would go a long way to decongest the prisons.

Mr Kwarteng raised a number of concerns such as smuggling of illegal items also known as contrabands into prison by visitors, prisoners and prison officers in some cases and said such development would defeat the reformation and rehabilitation addenda of the prison service.

He appealed to judges to ensure accused who exhibit strange behaviours are sent to psychiatric health facilities for intense medical evaluation.

The senior broadcast journalist urged the Mental Health Authority to conduct periodic visits to the 42 prisons in the country to assess the mental status of inmates.

Touching on the physically challenged, the Crime Check Foundation boss asked the government to establish disability friendly facilities in the prisons to prevent situations where physically challenged prisoners share the same facilities with other inmates.

Mr Kwarteng urged President Nana Akufo Addo to pardon the aged, sick and weak in order to decongest the prisons.

He asked for the appointment of an independent chief inspector of prisons who would conduct periodic visits to the prisons, report the conditions and treatment of prisoners to help fast track the needed reforms in the criminal justice system.

To forestall sneaking of weed and other illegal items into the prisons, the Executive Director of Crime Check Foundation suggested the installation of scanners in all prisons.

BY MALIK SULLEMANA                            

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