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Prisons Service Council Calls On Chief Justice
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Members of the Ghana Prisons Service Council have paid a working visit to the Chief Justice, Her Ladyship Georgina Theodora Wood, to deliberate on issues pertaining to  the international minimum standards for the treatment of prisoners, as well as formulate pragmatic measures aimed at decongesting the various prisons in the country.

In an opening speech, the Chairman of the Prisons Service Council, Rev Dr Stephen Wengam, commended Her Ladyship for admonishing judges and magistrates to visit the prisons and have a feel of the living conditions of prisoners. He further presented a copy of a documentary on remand prisoners, dubbed ‘Locked and Forgotten,’ and a nationwide report on overcrowding among prison inmates to the Chief Justice. 

The Chief Justice, on her part, implored the Prisons Service Council to undertake regular inspection visits to the prisons in the country and update her office on the conditions. She emphasised the need for the Police Service to be fully involved in the decongestion process as far as the criminal justice system is concerned.

Touching on the ‘Justice for All’ project, Her Ladyship pledged the preparedness of the judiciary to support and sustain the exercise by moving the court to prisons at regular periods to expedite the trial of remand cases, especially those whose cases have delayed. She expressed the need for judges and legal practitioners to adhere to human rights standards, as remand prisoners are presumed to be innocent until proven guilty by a competent court of jurisdiction. 

Madam Georgina Wood declared plans by the Judicial Service to suspend general cases in some selected courts from April to May to specifically try cases involving remand prisoners. She explained that the decision forms part of measures to decongest the country’s prisons, owing to the fact that remand prisoners form a third of the total inmates’ population nationwide.

According to the Chief Justice, a revised manual on United Nations Minimum Standards for the Treatment of Prisoners will soon be introduced to guide judges, magistrates and key stakeholders of the Criminal Justice System, including the Ghana Prisons Service. 

The Director-General of Prisons (DGP), Madam Matilda Baffour-Awuah, expressed her heartfelt gratitude to Her Ladyship Georgina Wood for her unflinching support to the Ghana Prisons Service. She added that the doors of the Prisons Service are always open to judges and magistrates who intend to visit any of the 43 prison facilities in the country. 

She also praised the Chief Justice for her rapid response after watching a telling documentary on the conditions of prisoners, especially for encouraging judges and magistrates to watch the footage.

Madam Matilda Baffour-Awuah acknowledged the Judicial Service for championing the ‘Justice for All’ programme, and described it as an all-important exercise designed to administer justice to helpless remand prisoners who have been pending trial in a long while.

The DGP hinted that the Prisons Service has established paralegal units in the central prisons to offer legal assistance to all categories of prisoners, and made a passionate appeal to the Judicial Service to organise intensive training programmes for prison officers who handle legal matters.

In a related development, the two institutions held bilateral discussions on the penal system, especially non-custodial sentencing as the key to decongesting overcrowded prisons across the country. “The prison should be the last resort for punishing offenders,” the Chief Justice concluded.
Source: The Finder

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