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794 prisoners granted amnesty …as government decongests various prisons nationwide to prevent COVID-19 spread

The government has granted amnesty to 794 prisoners serving in various prisons across the country to mitigate congestion and further spread of the coronavirus (COVID-19).

The convicts comprise 772 first time offenders, 16 very old prisoners above age 70, four severely ill and two prisoners on death sentence who have been converted to life imprisonment.

A statement issued and signed by the Director-General of the Prisons Service, Mr Patrick Darko Missah in Accra yesterday, said, the pardon was in line with Article 72 (1) of the 1992 Constitution.

According to the statement, the release of the prisoners takes immediate effect.

“The first time offenders totalling 772 who have served at least half of their sentences, 16 very old prisoners and four seriously ill are to be released outright.

“However, two prisoners on death row will have their sentence commuted to life imprisonment,” the statement said.

It would be recalled that in March this year, President Akufo-Addo granted amnesty to 808 prisoners based on the recommendation of the Prisons Service Council and in consultation with the Council of State.

A total of 783 first offenders who had served half of their sentences, 11 seriously ill prisoners and three aged prisoners, benefited from the official pardon.

However, seven prisoners on death row had their sentences commuted to life imprisonment, while four prisoners serving life sentence were commuted to 20 years definite term.

So far, one inmate of the Ankaful Maximum Security prison has tested positive for COVID-19 taking close to seven officers of the prisons into isolation.

There have also been isolated reported cases of the disease in several police cells across the country raising concerns for urgent steps to be taken to decongest the country’s prisons and stem spread of COVID-19.

Meanwhile, the Ghana Health Service (GHS) has stepped up collaboration with prison authorities to protect inmates from contracting the virus.

The GHS says it had deployed medical and health officials to various prisons to ensure screening of visitors and fresh inmates before they are admitted.

In some cases, isolation centres have been created for new inmates to be housed for 14 to 28 days before joining other prisoners.

As it stands, Ghana has a total of 18,237 confirmed COVID-19 cases with 117 deaths and 14,046 recoveries.

BY ABIGAIL ANNOH

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