Stakeholders at a workshop on the need for alternative sentencing regime have supported the call for community work sentencing for non-grievous or petty offences.
They affirmed that community work sentencing for petty and first-time offenders did not only stop the production of hard care criminals due to contact with such groupings in the cells, saved the government monies on feeding such inmates, promoted reconciliation but also allowed such people to continue to use their skills and talents to support the development of their communities.
Nana Gyamfuaba, the Acting Queen Mother of the Shama Traditional Council at the Sensitization workshop organised by the Commonwealth Human Rights Initiatives under the USAID Justice Sector Support activity described the call for community work sentencing as apt.
She noted that exposing first time offenders to the harsh dictate of the law had in many ways aggravated crime rates and created unnecessary congestion in the prisons.
Mr Samuel Adinkrah, of the Brenu and Co-Chambers said offenses such as drunk driving, traffic offenses, shop lifting, demonstration and other misdemeanours must have their sentences channelled through the community work sentencing.
He therefore intimated the need for law reforms to incorporate the current reflections of society.
Mr Yakubu Ibrahim, an Officer of the Ghana Prison Service said the Prisons were also overwhelmed with crowds which had crippled their efficient service delivery.
He said the current staff strength of the service to oversee some 14,000 inmates was daunting and therefore appreciated prison decongestion through the adoption of the community sentencing.
Ms Mina Mensah, the Executive Director of the CHRI described Community Work Sentencing as a prerequisite to enhance justice delivery in the country.
She indicated that Community sentencing referred to unpaid work rendered by an offender within a community for their benefit in a stipulated period.
The Bill, proposed for the amendments of the law to incorporate that was currently at the Attorney General’s Department and is believed to help control and lessen government expenditure, encourage reformation and help offenders pay back to their communities.
Ms Mensah said the bill when passed into law would mostly cater for offences with punishment not more than three years imprisonment.
Ms. Esther Poku-Aduhene, Progranmes Manager, CHRI Africa Office said the Bill had considered international best practices to aid successful implementation in the country.
She said a person who decided to go contrary to the punishment the court gave breached the law and would be taken back to court.
” When there’s a breach of orders, then it means that the person will be taken back to courts. And then what happens when you go to court the sentence that you initially were supposed to or the penalty that was supposed to be given to you per the crime that you committed, that will be given to you or it can even be harsher than that punishment, and that will end up taking you back to prison,” she explained.