Non-Custodial Sentencing to decongest Ghana’s prisons – Denmark Ambassador

By Iddi
Yire, GNA

Accra, Oct 13, GNA – Madam Tove Degnbol, the
Ambassador of Denmark to Ghana, says the practice of Non-Custodial Sentencing
would go a long way to help decongest Ghana’s prisons.

She said the Non-Custodial sentencing policy
would guarantee prisoner’s rights to sentencing and consequently reduce prison
congestion and promote reformation among convicts; adding that it was a key
ambition of Denmark to support initiatives that promote human rights and social
justice.

She explained that experience from other
countries where it was used, including Denmark, showed that Non-Custodial
sentences was also significantly reducing the number of prisoners who return to
prison after they were released (the so-called rate of recidivism).

Madam Degnbol said this at a Multi-Stakeholder
Conference on the “Non-Custodial Sentencing Policy Zero Draft Bill”,
in Accra.

The workshop, which was opened formally by Chief
Justice Sophia Akuffo was on the theme: “Consolidating Efforts to Enrich the
Zero Draft Non-Custodial Sentencing”.

It was organised by the POS Foundation in
collaboration with the Ministry of the Interior and the Judicial Service of
Ghana.

Non-Custodial Sentence or Alternative Sentence
refers to a punishment given by a court of law that does not involve a prison
term.

Non-Custodial Sentence has various forms such
as community service order, probation order, supervision order (parole), drug
testing and treatment order.

Madam Degnbol said: “We believe that the
Zero Draft Bill represents a milestone for Ghana’s commitment to promoting
access to justice for all, including vulnerable populations”.

“The non-custodial sentencing bill, when
passed into law, will affirm Ghana’s quest for the protection of all citizen’s
rights in accordance with international norms and standards,” she added.

The Ambassador said the State had the
responsibility to guarantee people’s rights; including fair trial for all, and
rehabilitation and reformation for convicts.

She mentioned the problems of overcrowded
prisons, the spread of infectious diseases such as tuberculosis (TB), chicken
pox, high cell temperatures and noise levels as a result of poor ventilation in
cells.

“I have had the opportunity to visit the
Nsawam and the Akuse prisons, and although staff from Ghana Prisons Service
were doing their best, it was obvious that there were too many prisoners and
that they were suffering from the congestion,” the Ambassador stated.

“It is for this reason that Denmark is
pleased to be a part of this laudable initiative of the Judicial Service of
introducing alternative sentencing regime into the Country’s laws.”

Madam Degnbol said, she was hopeful that the
bill, when passed into-law, would correct the structural defects in Ghana’s
justice system that only sentence or remand prisoners into custody without
giving them the opportunity for alternative sentencing.

She urged both the Cabinet and the
Legislature, and other key stakeholders to give the draft Bill the necessary
support to ensure its swift passage into law.

Mr Ambrose Dery, Minister of the Interior, in
a speech read on his behalf said, as at October 10, there were a total of
15,094 prisoners held in custody against a total capacity of 9,875, with a
corresponding general overcrowding rate of 52.9 per cent.

He said the passage of the Non-Custodial
Sentencing Bill into law would help decongest the nation’s prisons; and also
help reduce the high cost of feeding inmates.

Mr Jonathan Osei-Owusu, Founding Executive
Director, POS Foundation said the Non-Custodial Sentencing Bill, 2018, deals
with the alternate sentencing powers to provide for the rehabilitation of
offenders and to provide for related matters.

He said the Bill, which had been submitted to
the Chief Justice for review, was subsequently forwarded to the
Attorney-General/Ministry of Justice and finally to the Ministry of the
Interior.

GNA

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