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Re-Integrate Ex-Convicts Into Society - GBA President   
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Mr. Orleans Oduro Amponsah, Brong-Ahafo Regional President of the Ghana Bar Association (GBA), has appealed to the general public to accept and re-integrate ex-convicts into society.

He said the current situation, under which members of the public stigmatised and avoid prisoners after serving their jail terms, was not the best, as such attitudes affected their reformation and re-integration into society.

Mr. Oduro made the appealed at the official launching of the Center for Human Rights Enforcement and Prisoners AID (CHREP AID), a non-governmental organization (NGO), in Sunyani over the weekend.

Mr. Oduro emphasised that prison was meant to reform, and not to harden inmates, but regretted that the current state of the country’s prisons had made it extremely difficult to achieve this noble cause.

He explained that the total reformation of ex-convicts was a collective responsibility between the government and the general public, and entreated the former to lend its support.

The Regional GBA President expressed concern over the current overcrowding and dilapidated nature of the country’s prisons, and called on the government to address the problem.

CHREP AID was established May 2012, and works to promote the welfare of vulnerable and marginalised groups, especially prisoners and people in police and prison detention.

Assistant Superintendent of Police (ASP) Christopher Tawiah, Brong-Ahafo Regional Police Public Relations Officer, emphasised that prisoners had some basic rights they had to enjoy when serving their sentences.

Some of these rights include access to food (three times daily) and quality health care delivery.

Justice Ato Essan, Acting Supervising High Court Judge in Sunyani, said conditions in the country’s prisons needed to be improved, adding “prison has no respect for persons.”

Mr. Antwi Agyei, Executive Director of CHREP AID, expressed concern that prisoners were underfed or malnourished, and also lacked adequate medical attention whenever they fell sick.

He revealed that the Sunyani Central Prisons contained over 800 instead of 271 inmates, adding that Ghana had an approximate prison population of 18,000 living in facilities designed to accommodate only 4,000 inmates.

This situation, Mr. Antwi, a legal practitioner, said, had resulted in congestion, overcrowding and the concomitant spread of communicable diseases like HIV/AIDS, and Tuberculosis.

The Executive Director said this situation explained the formation of the NGO, which advocated a reduction in prison overcrowding by diverting cases, mostly minor offences, into mediation processes, encourage non-custodial sentencing, and push for restorative justice in the country.

In another development, Mr. Paul Evans Aidoo, Brong-Ahafo Regional Minister, has called for an effective collaboration between various transports unions to minimise road crashes in the country.

He said highway robbery was rife in some parts of the region, indicating that similar collaborations were also needed to bring the situation under control.

Mr. Aidoo made the call when executive members of the Brong-Ahafo Regional branch of the Ghana Private Road Transport Union (GPRTU) paid a courtesy call on him on Wednesday.

He was positive that the existing collaboration between the transport unions, police, and the District and Municipal assemblies would also be strengthened.

Mr. Aidoo noted that the role of key stakeholders such as the District and Municipal assemblies, security agencies and National Road Safety Commission (NRSC), in curbing road accidents and highway robbery, could not be overemphasised.

The Regional Minister advised the union to ensure that their buses, which nightly ply the highways, move simultaneously with police escort.

Mr. Aidoo told the executives that transparency and accountability were very essential, and advised them to adhere to the provisions stipulated in the union’s constitution.

By so doing, he said, the executives could win the general confidence of union members, and also promote unity and oneness, a pre-requisite tool needed for its growth.

Mr. Aidoo urged the union members not to hesitate to report suspicious vehicles to the police for questioning.

Mr. Benjamin Kusi, Brong-Ahafo GPRTU Regional Chairman, appealed to the Regional Minister to personally intervene to stop some unscrupulous commercial drivers who had established their own satellite lorry stations at the Sunyani main business district area.
Source: The Chronicle

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