Mr Abdulai Jaladeen, the Upper East Regional Director of the Commission on Human Rights and Administrative Justice (CHRAJ) has called on government to introduce non-custodial sentences into the country’s legal system, to be exercise on people who are convicted of minor crimes.
He said people whose crimes were not serious and are sentenced to serve short prison terms should be given alternative but productive punishment outside the prison walls with effective supervision.
This, the Director said, would not only help to decongest the prisons but make the convicts contribute to the growth and development of the country and relieve government of the huge financial burden involved in such detentions.
“We will continue to talk about it and when government hears our cry and introduce the non-custodial sentences, I think it is going to help. If we were to vote for non-custodial sentences for some of them I will vote for it and just use these people to clean our environment”.
“For instance, if two people should fight and at the end of the day they are convicted and sentenced to four months imprisonment whilst these people could have been asked to do some work for even one month and go away or sign a bond to be of good behavior,” he added.
The Director made the call in Navrongo, after he led a team to interact with officers and inmates of the Navrongo Central Prisons as part of the Commission’s annual visits to detention centres.
The visit was to interact with the officers and interview the inmates particularly those who were on remand to find out their concerns and how they could advocate for assistance.
He said their report would be forwarded to Accra for appropriate action to surmount the challenges to ensure that inmates live dignified lives.
The Regional Director further appealed to government to increase the daily stipends of the inmates which currently stands at GH?1.80 per person, to create room for the provision of quality and sufficient food.
Mr Jaladeen indicated that the Navrongo Central Prison needed support in the area of Water, Sanitation and Hygiene (WASH) facilities and said the inspection revealed that the prison had only a four-seater dilapidated toilet facility for both inmates and the officers which was woefully inadequate.
Mr Henry Dasaah, Deputy Director of Prisons and the Regional Commander of the Navrongo Central Prisons said it currently had 228 inmates, out of which 25 are remand prisoners.
Mr Dasaah said the prison was a reformation institution and therefore society should always avoid stigmatization and support people who served their sentences to enable them to fit well in their communities and live normal lives.
He said the custodial sentences had been overstretched and appealed to government to introduce suspended sentences.
The Regional Commander lauded the efforts of CHRAJ and said the work the Justice for All Programme helped to release 11 people who were on remand.