Ghana prisons record 14,777 inmates

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Mrs Matilda Baffuor Awuah, Controller General of Ghana Prisons on

Thursday said the prison population as at October 2014 ending stands

at 14,777.

This, she said has overstretched the occupancy rate by more than 50

per cent of the original capacity.

She said out of this, 11, 653 are convicts and 3,124 are on remand.

The remand prisoners constitute 21 per cent of the total prison


Mrs Awuah said this at opening of a two-day forum in Accra, on

non-custodial sentencing aimed among other things at decongesting the

country's prisons to make conditions better and internationally


She said "indeed in some Prison facilities like Nsawam, Kumasi,

Sunyani, Sekondi, Tarkwa and Tamale overcrowding rate ranges from 150

per cent to 300 per cent each day due largely to the presence of high

number of remand prisoners".

Mrs Awuah said because of the phenomenon there is the need for the

construction of new prisons, in line with the best practices, although

it does not provide sustainable solution.

She said numerous international instruments recommend rationalisation

in sentencing policy, including the wider use of alternatives to


She said community sanctions assist in smooth reintegration of the

offenders and ultimately create opportunities from victims and

communities to benefit from offenders, especially in social and

economic development.

She said in Ghana some sections of the law empowers judges to use

alternative sentences such as probation orders, fines, suspended

sentences and sections 352-369 of the Criminal and other offenses

(Procedure) Act, 1960 Act 30 highlight on probation and discharge of


"The practice of non-custodial sentencing is new to Africa and we in

Ghana are about to undertake the journey so whether it will be

successful or not will depend on the level of interest and

participation of the public, government and non-governmental

organisation therefore the public should be educated to gain their

confidence that there are numerous advantages to be derived from

non-custodial sentencing," she said.

Mr Mark Woyongo, Minister of the Interior who opened the forum said a

large number of prison inmates are those on remand with expired

warrants and some have spent more years on remand than would have

suffered if they had been convicted on the offenses they have been

charged with.

He said: "Freedom and justice is our national motto but why are people

put on remand for so long denying them of their freedom?"

He said President John Dramani Mahama, Cabinet and the Chief Justice

have given their approval for the forum leading to the fashioning of a

new sentencing regime.

He called on participants to look into the issues with all seriousness

so that a feasible legal roadmap would be crafted for approval by


Mr Woyongo called for a re-examination of the practice by the courts

to remand first offenders for suspected crimes, irrespective of the

gravity of the offence, which tend to increase the number of inmates

the prisons.

He said "I am not advocating that criminals should not be punished but

I am saying that the punishment should be commensurate with the


Mr Daniel Akwasi Amankwa, Divisional Supervisor for Demand Reduction

at the Narcotics Control Board said, it is easier arresting drug users

rather than couriers or barons, while many users are also caught and

prosecuted , leading to the choking of the prisons.

Mr Amankwa suggested the piloting of a drug court system, a criminal

justice reform system of the 20th century practiced in the United

States, saying "it shifts from incarceration be piloted as an

alternative to incarceration of drug users".

"This is because incarceration of drug users has not reduced drug use

as expected, in some instances, drug use continues even in the

prisons," he explained.

He said studies have shown that the drug court system is effective in

reducing prison population.

He said: "Today all the 50 states of the US implement the drug court

system and besides, there are over 20 countries including Australia

and New Zealand which have adopted the drug court system."

Credit: GNA

Kofi Oppong Kyekyeku

I am a Ghanaian Broadcast Journalist/Writer who has an interest in General News, Sports, Entertainment, Health, Lifestyle and many more.

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