Three remand prisoners at the Sekondi Central Prisons were at the weekend set free under the Justice For All Programme (JFAP), instituted to decongest prisons across the country.
They are Mohammed Abass, Stephen Nkansah and Emmanuel Koufie. Mohammed Abass who is suffering from Tuberculosis and also asthmatic and was on trial at a Takoradi Circuit court for stealing, was acquitted and discharged and ordered to sign a bond to be of good behaviour for two years or in default three years imprisonment .
Stephen Nkansah and Emmanuel Koufie who were both on remand for possession of Indian hemp of minimal weight were also discharged and asked to be of good behaviour for two years or in default serve three years imprisonment
The three men expressed their happiness for their discharge and thanked the court and the lawyers who defended them free of charge. Mr Justice Clemence Honyenuga, Chairman of the Remand Review Taskforce and a Justice of the Court of Appeal presided over the cases of twenty remand prisoners.
Two persons were convicted and imprisoned for one month each,eleven others were granted bail while four other bail applications were refused. Majority of the cases brought before the court were defilement and rape, with one manslaughter, one of stealing, and the possession of Indian hemp.
Mr Justice Honyenuga, addressing the media after the trial, asked the public to disabuse their minds that beneficiaries of JFAP turn up to be hardened criminals and end up returning to the prison, stressing that it was in rare cases and that one out of 50 may go back to prison .
He expressed concern about the high numbers of defilement and rape cases reported in the Sekondi-Takoradi Metropolis and that most of the culprits were between the ages of 18 and 30 years and it was not a good image for the metropolis.
He said the introduction of JFAP has gone a long way to reduce the number of remand prisoners nationwide and that the total remand prisoners population in the country was now about 12.9 percent against 30.6 per cent in 2007. Madam Patience Klinogo Chief State Attorney in charge of Western Region, noted that due to the JFAP the number of remand prisoners in the region had reduced tremendously.
She explained that the four applicants that were refused bail was because one was completed and due for judgement, whiles the others were part heard cases. Mr Jonathan Osei Owusu Executive Director of POS Foundation, (facilitator of the justice for all programme) called on all stakeholders to support the JFAP, adding that it has attained international recognition in places such as Geneva.
He said a group from Kenya had come to Ghana to understudy the programme, adding that JFAP has come to stay and should be given the needed support to enable it achieve its core mandate.
Mr Owusu said JFAP was instituted in 2007 to alleviate prison overcrowding by setting up special in-prison courts to adjudicate remand prisoner cases throughout the country with joint efforts of the Judicial Service, Office of the Attorney General, Ghana Police and Prisons Service and Civil Society group.
According to him in 2007 the Prisons Service annual report stated that 13,335 prisoners representing 30.6 per cent were held in prisons designed to hold approximately one-third of the number. He said Ghana Prisons Service statistics also indicated that the total prison population as of February 22, 2016, was 14,534, out of which 2,464 were remand prisoners, represented 18.2 per cent of the total prison population in Ghana.
Mr Owusu pointed out that as of 26 December, 2017, the total remand population has reduced to 12 per cent. Deputy Director of Prisons, Mr Nelson Basubinin Duut, thanked JFAP for extending their services to the Sekondi Central prison.
He said the programme had brought justices to the door steps of the inmates and has gone a long way to reduce the number of remand prisoners. Mr Duut said the prison which has a capacity of 300 now accommodates about 670 out of which more than 50 are remand prisoners.
Mr David Owusu Tachie and Mrs Bema Brenu-Mensah who represented the applicants expressed concern about the number of defilement and rape cases and called on religious leaders to intensify education on defilement and rape since some of the culprits were ignorant of the consequences of their acts.