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COMMENT: Of Remand Prisoners And Decongestion
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The long stay in prison without any trial has been a source of worry for not only human rights activists but also for all freedom loving people. It violates the human rights of the remand prisoners.
Available statistics indicate that currently the remand prisoner population in the country stands at 3,869, or about 30 percent of the total prison population of 13,287.

The overcrowding situation in the country’s prisons can therefore be attributed to the high rate of remand prisoners some of whom have been on remand for between one and 16 years. It is, therefore, a welcoming news that, steps are being taken to decongest the country’s prisons to make them more humane, sensitive and less punitive.

The announcement that five state institutions have jointly undertaken to work seriously to reduce by half, the number of remand prisoners languishing in the various prisons by July next year is quite refreshing. They are the Judicial, Police and Prisons Services, Attorney-General’s Department and the Commission on Human Rights and Administrative Justice (CHRAJ).

The agreement to this effect was reached at a high level stakeholders meeting in Accra on Tuesday, based on effective implementation of the Justice-for-All programme, which, among other things, aimed at decongesting the prisons of remand prisoners.

We have known all along that our prisons are not the best place to rehabilitate offenders because of the deplorable conditions there. The behavior of people who have come out of our prisons leaves much to be desired, since the long period that they spend there, rather makes them hardened criminals instead of reforming them. The criminal justice system in many countries has been reformed to include paroles, suspended sentences that border on community service and hard labour outside prison walls. Such sentences are humane, reformatory and not unduly punitive. It is also to ensure that the prisons are better administered.

Indeed, we need to reform our prisons along those lines so that it can be easy to control vices such as the use of drugs, sodomy and alcoholism by the inmates.

The Times newspaper feels that, it was time custodial sentences were done away with, in respect of petty offences and misdemeanors which only merit fines or community service and not a jail term. Jail is for those who have proved beyond all doubts that their continued stay within decent society will be inimical to the interest of that public. Those who ought to be kept behind bars must be felons, who are notable misfits and can influence society negatively, cause harm or jeopardize the lives of other people. We suggest that parliament should pass a law to compel the courts to order minor offenders to do community service, give probation and parole so that the convict may not necessarily be given custodial sentences.

Source: G. Times

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