By Enock Akonnor email@example.com
The Commonwealth Human Rights Initiative (CHRI), Africa office is vociferously advocating for the passage of the Community Service Sentencing (CSS) Bill consequent to the overpopulated nature of prisons in Ghana.
It emerged at a sensitization workshop organized and held in Kumasi by CHRI officials that the total number of inmates locked up in 44 prisons across the country has exceeded the authorized prison population which is pegged at 9945.
Presently, persons on remand is 1,835 representing 12.5% and those convicted stands at 1,2787 representing (87.5%) making a total of 14622.
4677 has been given as the figure representing the number of overcrowded prisoners.
The colossal population is heavily centered at Nsawam and the Kumasi Central Prisons; Francis Apau (Superintendent-Criminal Records Kumasi Central Prisons) disclosed in his presentation at the workshop.
Nsawam alone has an overcrowded number of 2,238 prisoners whereas Kumasi has 1,500.
Contrary to the UN standard which demands that every prisoner is given 6 square meter space, a 10.2 square meters according to the prison officer is occupied by 13 prisoners at the Kumasi central prison.
Per the status-quo, Superintendent Apau indicated that one of the mandates of prison officers which is undertaking a reformation and rehabilitation of prisoners has not been realized since all resources of the state goes into maintenance of facility, security and custody.
As part of the disadvantages, “less resources will be devoted to reformation and rehabilitation”, he indicated. He added that overcrowding at prisons poses great risk to the health of inmates. “Reformation can be possible if the overcrowding is reduced”, he underlined.
From the month of January to May this year 2022, number of inmates at Kumasi Central Prisons stands at 493 and that of admissions is 802, detailing that 1000 convicts are received on admission every month.
Superintendent Apau by way of advocacy said the passage of the Community Service Sentencing will lessen the situation, hoping that the present prison population will reduce by 40% if the bill is passed. This he explained will pave way for lives to be touched and reformed.
“The current situation cannot help”, he added.
According to Mina Mensah (Director, CHRI Africa Office-Accra), though CSS in Ghana’s justice delivery system is necessary, the tendency of majority of the citizenry working against it during its implementation is very high.
“The mentality of the average Ghanaian concerning appropriate punishment for offenders of the law is incarceration. There is therefore the need for increased public education to reduce or change public mind-set on notions such as ‘let the punishment fit the crime’ before the implementation of the CSS commence.”, she noted in an official letter to the media.
The workshop was held by officials of CHRI (an implementing partner of the USAID Justice Sector Support Activity) through a collaboration with ABAK Ghana Foundation and Muslim Family Counselling Services (MFCS).
It sought to increase education on the importance of CSS in Ghana’s justice delivery system among key stakeholders and solicit for support to serve as agents of change for the acceptance of community sentencing to advance the process in Ghana.
Present at the event were traditional and religious leaders, CSOs, legal practitioners, local government officials, persons with disabilities, prison officers among others.