Community Service Bill will decongest prisons, Stakeholders admit

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Participants
Participants
Spining

Participants at a day’s sensitization workshop on Community Service Sentencing Bill in Takoradi have admitted that the Bill when passed into law woud be the surest way to reduce the overcrowding in the various prisons across the country.

They therefore, pleaded with the organizers to collaborate with the media to highlight the benefits of the Community Service Sentencing for the society to accept in order to reduce the overcrowding situation in Ghana’s prisons.

The participants called for the involvement of traditional leaders and the Assembly Members so that they can educate their communities and further called on the media to advocate and send the message across to others and push for the passage of the Bill which is yet to be sent to Parliament.

Ms Mina Mensah, Director, Commonwealth Human Rights Initiative, Africa Office, mentioned some advantages of the Bill as the unpaid work offenders which would render to the government, and their community where the offence was committed and young people would not have to end their education because they had been sent to prison.

She said most people go to prison because there was no other form of sentencing and since the offenders were not reformed and society also failed to integrate the offenders, they were left with nothing than committing crimes to go back to prison.

She noted that the challenge of overcrowding was not because of high crime rate and therefore called on journalists to continue to set the agenda on alternative sentencing to decongest the prisons.

Superintendent Ibrahim Yakubu, a Superintendent of Prisons who spoke on the urgent need for Community Service Sentencing as a prerequisite to enhance justice delivery in Ghana noted that the GHc 1.80p given to inmates as feeding fee was woefully inadequate hence the need to expedite processes to pass the Bill into law.

Supt Yakubu said there were many disadvantages being faced because the only form of punishment was custodial sentencing, adding that anyone who committed an offence, a petty offence, and young offenders all went to prison.

He intimated that the impact of custodial sentencing had resulted in prison overcrowding, adding that per 2020 figures 52 per cent of the country’s prisons were crowded.

He divulged that people were sent to the prisons for two main reasons such as protecting the society and giving opportunities to the offenders to be reformed and reconciled their families and the society at large.

Supt Yakubu noted that people were sent to the prisons for corrections and not to punish them in that being sent to the prisons was a punishment since you are denied or restricted from your family and society.

Madam Esther Poku-Aduhene, Program Manager for CHRI said the Ministry of Interior had forwarded the revised bill to the Attorney General’s office (AG) for advice and was currently putting in place measures to address congestion in prisons, improve conditions of detention and reduce the occurrence of recidivism.

She said the Community Service Bill was an alternative to custodial sentence for convicted offenders in respect of certain types of offences, and would see offenders rendering unpaid public work within a community and for its benefit for a period not exceeding the term of imprisonment for which the court had sentenced them.

She mentioned some of community sentencing as compulsory unpaid work (cleaning, collection of litter, redecorating community space and facilities) and said participation in these activities could lead to behavioral change.

She added that it would also reduce cost and expenditure on government, noting that the One Cedi 80 pesewas allocated to each inmate daily could be used in other profitable ventures.

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