Crime Check Foundation (CCF), a Prison NGO has called on government to release more petty offenders, the sick and the aged from prison to prevent them from contracting the Coronavirus (COVID-19).
A statement issued in Accra and signed by Mr Ibrahim Oppong Kwarteng, the Executive Director of CCF said the country’s 44 prisons would be hard hit, should prisoners and wardens contract the dreaded COVID-19.
It said more worrying would be the increase in positive cases among the population stemming from contacts between prison wardens and the public.
The statement said as most prisons around the world begin to release more prisoners and modify sentences to avoid further spread of the disease among prison populations, it has become even more expedient in the case of Ghana for the President to pardon more first time offenders with lower sentences, as well as the sick and the aged, most of whom do not pose a risk to society.
“It is against this backdrop that Crime Check Foundation is proposing that the 808 prisoners granted Amnesty by the President is inadequate,” it added.
“We at CCF believe the need to pardon more sick and aged prisoners at this crucial period has become even more necessary because of the way the pandemic has largely killed the aged and others with low immunity in many parts of the world,” it said.
It said with the shared knowledge of the non-nutritious nature of foods in the country’s prisons from a meager GH 1.80 per prisoner per day, sick prisoners and the aged would have no chance of surviving the COVID-19 pandemic.
The statement said with the rates of Tuberculosis infections among prison populations, was hundred times higher than outside it, there was the need for President to pardon more inmates with pre-existing health conditions, especially with the possibility of the deadly COVID-19 pandemic lurking around the prisons.
It said though the Justice For All Programme has reduced the prison remand population, there were still many prisoners on remand with missing dockets as well as others, whose fate were yet to be determined either through lack of evidence or their prosecutors may have been transferred.
“Such infractions of the law and the abuse of the rights of such individuals dilute Ghana’s designation as the beacon of democracy and the champion of Human Rights in Africa,” the statement said.
It expressed the hope that the President would act swiftly to dispatch more remand prisoners home to significantly reduce the remand population in the country’s prisons to make social distancing for those in custody less challenging.
“Much as we appreciate the President’s efforts, the release of 808 prisoners as against the more than fifteen thousand inmates, whose lives are currently in danger of the disease represents a drop in the ocean,” it added.
The statement, therefore, called on the government to as a matter of urgency to provide sanitizers, veronica buckets, infra-red thermometers and other protective gadgets to the Prison service to enable them to cope with the pressure associated with the pandemic.
It urged philanthropists, individuals and well-meaning Ghanaians to also support the Prison Service with protective gadgets at this crucial period.