Stakeholders at a roundtable on ‘the need for Ghana to consider non-custodial sentences in cases of misdemeanour’ have urged Parliament to pass the Community Service Bill (non-custodial law) to help decongest the prisons and make them more effective and efficient.
In furtherance of this, they also appealed to the Ministry for the Interior to exert pressure on Parliament for the passage since the Judiciary is empowered with the law.
Organised by the Centre for Democratic Development-Ghana (CDD-Ghana) which referred to the Judicial System, the stakeholders said it was empowered with custodial sentences such as probation, parole and restricted non-custodial sentence including a fine, thus needed for the law to be passed and stressed on the need to also implement the Tokyo Rules it was signatory to, which had broad non-custodial sentences it could choose from.
Jonathan Owusu, the facilitator for ‘Justice For All’, said the nation should not wait any longer but try the system, learn and perfect it since the justice system should be retributive whereby offender would reform and victims would forgive, citing restitution, among others, which were found in the Tokyo Rules under non-custodial sentences.
“There should be enough public education and sensitisation to avoid stigmatisation where citizens will be encouraged to get on board to help reintegrate ex-convicts, keeping inmates whereby the place is already congested is a drain on the country’s budget, I propose noncustodial sentences should be considered in terms of misdemeanour, offences which attract sentences less than three years.
Assistant Superintendent of Prisons (ASP) Stephen Aboagye, at the Legal Unit, Ghana Prisons Service, disclosed that prisons had an excess of 3,247 inmates, thus the need to decongest them since convicts with different crime magnitudes were put together making less hardened more hardened after serving their terms.
Apostle Lawrence Nyarko, the Director of Finance and Administration, Church of Pentecost, said when an offence was committed, the community should benefit from the punishment given and suggested community service, including sweeping and planting of trees, while convicts reported to the police till the term ended.
Ameley Agyeman, Office of the Attorney General, indicated that judges must be encouraged to consider non-custodial sentences.
Gifty Quaye, Assistant Director, Ministry for the Interior, attributed the delay in the passage of the Non-Custodial Bill, related to the Criminal Offence Act to government’s financial constrain. -GNA