The Judiciary is examining the possibility of practising non-custodial sentences as part of efforts to decongest prisons in the country, Ms Justice Sophia Akuffo, Chief Justice of the Republic has announced.
Ms Justice Akuffo said the conditions at the prisons did not speak well of the country’s status as a human rights nation hence the possibility of non-custodial sentences, adding the Judiciary would do all within its power to decongest the prisons.
Ms Justice Akuffo announced this in Tamale on Friday when she opened the Justice for all Programme, at the Tamale Central Prison to allow remand prisoners at the facility to benefit from the programme. The Justice for all Programme, seeks to alleviate prison overcrowding by setting up special in-prison courts to adjudicate remand prisoner cases across the country. The Tamale Central Prison was built to accommodate 78 prisoners but it currently has between 250 to 300 inmates, a situation which puts pressure on the facility. In all, a total of 20 remand cases were heard, out of which three were unconditionally discharged, 13 were granted bail, three bail applications were refused and one bail application was struck out. Ms Justice Akuffo said remanding suspects was not supposed to be part of the criminal justice system, adding the Judiciary, therefore, was making efforts to deal with the causes for remanding suspects. She directed that judges who were fond of remanding suspects should be reported to her office for action to be taken against them. She reiterated that the Justice for all Programme was not to release dangerous persons to the public but rather those, who ought not to be at the prisons thereby protecting their human rights. Justice Clemence Honyenugah, Justice of the Court of Appeal, who presided over the Court session at the Tamale Central Prison as part of the Justice for all Programme, said he had identified three judges for being recalcitrant on remanding suspects in the Region. He said those judges would be invited to face disciplinary proceedings. Deputy Director of Prisons, Mr Dah Leonard Kwesi, Northern Regional Commander of Ghana Prisons Service, commended the Justice for all Programme saying it had helped to reduce overcrowding at the prisons thereby improving the well-being of inmates.