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08 July 2017

Decongesting Ghana’s prisons: Judge pushes for fines for some convicts

An Appeals Court Judge, has called on interest groups in the legal system to do more in pushing for non-custodial sentences.

Justice Clemence Hornyenugah believes non-custodial sentences will help decongest Ghana’s prisons.

The Appeals Court Judge was addressing the media after eight inmates of the Akuse Local Prison regained their freedom under the Justice for All Programme.

A non-custodial sentence is when a person is found guilty of a crime but instead of handing the person a prison term, he or she is given a fine or a probation order or a community service.

In several other countries, crimes like petty stealing, contempt of court, smoking of ‘weed’ etc. are all given non-custodial sentences.

But Ghana’s laws are silent on non-custodial sentence, giving judges no option than to hand prison sentences to offenders, even if for mild offences.

The case for remand prisoners is worse as suspects are kept on remand, sometimes for years without any hearing, let alone conviction.

Even though the Justice For All Programme was instituted in 2008 to help decongest the prisons, especially of remand prisoners, it was dormant until the revealing documentary by Joy News’ Seth Kwame Boateng titled Locked and Forgotten got the judiciary to implement the programme with a little more vigour than it initially did.

Hundreds of suspects have gained their freedom as a result of the Programme. But Justice Clemence Hornyenugah is convinced a more lasting approach to decongesting the prisons is to push for a non-custodial sentences.

If you have policies like community service and others, the remand numbers will not be like this.

“We are calling on the authorities, especially the Attorney General and the Interior Minister to take up this matter seriously and get a non-custodial sentence in place,” Justice Hornyenugah said.

He was part of the team of judges who granted remand prisoners in the Akuse Local prisons their freedom after a lengthy hearing

Joy News’ Maxwell Agbagba has been interacting with 23year old Daniel Boateng who regained his freedom after he was put on remand for almost two years without trial for alleged rape.

He said he was accused of raping a woman he didn’t know. In a case of being at the wrong place at the wrong time, Daniel Boateng said he had gone to give money to a friend at a location but the friend was not around and had to wait.

Whilst waiting, the police came and picked him up accusing him of being one of six suspects who raped a woman.

He has since been sent to prison for over a year without trial until he was granted bail on Friday.

Another suspect, Theophilus Quao of stealing a TV set and has since been in prison for over 50 months. He also gained his freedom.

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