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Crime & Punishment of Friday, 18 June 2021

Source: Sefakor Fekpe, Contributor

Crime Check Foundation pushes for reformation of by-laws

Legal practitioner with the CCF, Doris Bangu Legal practitioner with the CCF, Doris Bangu

The Crime Check Foundation (CCF) has organized a sensitization workshop on reformation of by-laws for vagrants at the Accra Metropolitan Assembly on June 17, 2021.

A project consultant with the CCF, Cosmos Kwame Akorli in a brief speech
emphasized the need for vagrants including market women, head porters, hawkers, among others to be aware of by-laws and their importance.

Meanwhile, a legal practitioner with the CCF, Doris Bangu has called on the Metropolitan, Municipal And District Assemblies (MMDAs) to consider some amendments in their by-laws which usually target the poor.

According to her, amending the laws to reflect on the petty offender is in the interest of national development.

She added that when the punishment provided by the assemblies is reformative, offenders will be made to engage in community service rather than throwing them into prison when they default in paying fine.

"The essence of this project is to look for alternative methods of punishments for persons who violate these laws even though they (laws) are for good, they're not criminals in the sense of stealing, murder and other serious offences which are felonies."

"The MMDAs are the ones in the locality who make the by-laws and you prescribe the punishments for them; if they violate the offences and they go to court, the courts are bound to impose the punishments so if we want non-custodial, then we need to amend the laws so that they can reflect and that is what CCF and OSIWA are advocating for," Mrs. Bangu emphasised.

The MMDAs pass by-laws such as fines and penalties which these vagrants are unable to pay and eventually end up in prison.

A vagrant is a person who is homeless and with no regular work thereby moving from one place to other. They usually make a living from begging or hawking on the streets.

The sensitisation workshop which forms part of the Decriminalization Vagrancy Laws And Advocacy (DVLA) project by Crime Check Foundation and funded by the Open Society Initiative for West Africa (OSIWA) is pushing for non-custodial form of sentencing or community service to decongest Ghana's choked prisons while educating the vigrants on their rights

To properly psyche the minds of participants to take actions, a video showing the deplorable and inhumane conditions of prisoners was shown; this is to remind all parties including the assemblies to reconsider the punishments meted to the vagrants.

The participants at the workshop included head porters, persons with disabilities, market women, property owners, assembly members and some officials of the Accra Metropolitan Assembly.

Project Timeline

The one-year project will be rolled out in 12 metropolitan assemblies in three regions: Greater Accra, Ashanti, and Central.

“We have begun with the mapping, and we are engaging with the various district assemblies in the selected regions and the leadership of vagrants”.

The project will sensitize 1200 vagrants about their rights and responsibilities to prevent any misunderstandings with the assemblies.

“In order not to seem as we are inciting vagrants against the district assemblies and the central government, we will also educate them about their duties as patriotic citizens,” Executive Director of Crime Check Foundation, Ibrahim Oppong Kwarteng said.

Monitoring and Evaluation

To monitor the progress and effectiveness of the project, a contact centre will be created after the sensitization to address the concerns of vagrants at the partnering organization, Crime Check Foundation.

The project will run from May 2021 to May 2022.