Mrs Rita Nupe Botchway, a Project Officer at the Legal Resources Centre (LRC), says the Community Service Bill when passed into law, would reduce the excess number of inmates in the prisons.
She said the Bill would also ensure that offenders such as parents and caregivers sentenced would be able to carry out their punishments without being separated from their families for years as being the case under the custodial sentencing system.
The Community Service Bill, which is an alternative to custodial sentence for convicted offenders in respect of certain types of offences, 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.
Mrs Botchway speaking to the media during a public education workshop on the Bill in Hohoe under the USAID Justice Sector Support Activity, said it was long overdue for the country to add on the non-custodial sentencing.
She 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.
Mrs Botchway said the situation had brought much burden on the tax payers’ money since the prisons which should be housing about 4,000 inmates are now housing over 14,000 inmates.
She said because of the excess inmates, most imprisoned were not able to get reformed and transformed as it was supposed and added that punishment was not only about causing harm to the offender, but could be a benefit to the community.
Mrs Botchway said some advantages of the Bill would include the unpaid work offenders would render to the government, 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.
Mrs Botchway called on the participants to advocate and send the message across to others and together push for the passage of the Bill which is yet to be sent to Parliament.
She wished that the Bill would be passed before the current Parliament is dissolved.
A nationwide sensitisation programme is expected to be rolled out after the passage of the Bill to sensitise the public on how to integrate and associate with offenders who might be rendering services under the Community Service sentencing.