Government has been called upon, to as matter of urgency, grant amnesty to prison inmates convicted of minor crimes to decongest the various prisons to help curb the spread of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic.
The Executive Director of a civil society organisation called Perfector of Sentiments (POS) Foundation, Mr Jonathan Osei Owusu, made the call when his outfit with funding support from GIZ donated some Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) and hygiene materials and food items worth GH¢32,000.00 to the Navrongo Central Prisons in the Kassena-Nankana Municipality of the Upper East Region last Tuesday.
POS which is facilitator of the Justice For All Programme, also presented a cheque for GH¢1,000.00 to the Navrongo Prison.
The items included hand washing sanitisers, veronica buckets, gallons of liquid soap and nose masks.
The Executive Director, who said the prisons in the country were very congested and any eventuality of recording the infection of the COVID-19 could be very disastrous, impressed upon President Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo to act in accordance with Article 72 of the 1992 Constitution that gives him the prerogative to pardon petty offenders and non-violent drug users.
“This will not only ensure that the health precautionary and safety protocols like social distancing are adhered to, but it will help enhance better management at the various facilities,” he stressed.
Mr Owusu further underscored the need for government through the Ministry of Interior and the Attorney General and Ministry of Justice to work with urgency to ensure that the appropriate Legislative/Constitutional Instruments were passed to grant probation and parole as non-custodian sentencing to deserving prisoners.
“The Foundation is equally calling on government to speed up the passage of the Community Service Bill currently at the Ministry of Interior as this will contribute significantly to decongestion of Ghana’s prisons,” he said.
Additionally, the Executive Director impressed upon the government to, as a matter of priority, increase the daily grant of the GH¢1.80 to each prisoner, stressing that “this will ensure they eat good food that will boost their immune system to help fight the COVID-19 should they be infected.
Whilst paying tribute to the officers of the Ghana Prisons Service for working diligently to help fight the pandemic, the Executive Director, urged them not to relent on their efforts in supporting the fight.
The Deputy Commander in-charge of the Navrongo Central Prisons, Chief Superintendent Francis Yao Adzaklo, who received the items, commended the Foundation and its partners for the support and said they, would be used judiciously to tackle the menace.
The Deputy Commander stated that the Navrongo Central Prison which is supposed to house 80 prisoners now accommodates 210 prison inmates, putting much pressure on facilities such as the toilet, urinal and bathhouse.
He said the facility has also one vehicle which conveys remand prisoners to courts and health facilities, and called on government to consider providing them with more vehicles to enhance their operations.
FROM SAMUEL AKAPULE, NAVRONGO