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General News of Wednesday, 31 July 2019

Source: GNA

Forty-eight remand prisoners benefit from legal aid

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A project that seeks to protect and improve the welfare of prisoners and ex-convicts has, within the period of 12-months, extended free legal services to 48 remand prisoners in and around Tamale.

The project dubbed: “Harnessing Opportunities for Prison Ex-convicts” (HOPE), is an initiative of the Centre for Social Development (CSD) Reform, a Non-Governmental Organisation operating in Tamale.

Madam Eunice Akpeere, Member of the Board of Directors of CSD Reform made this known in an interview with the Ghana News Agency in Tamale.

Madam Akpeere said the intervention was part of efforts to promote justice for all persons in the country as well as contributing to the decongestion of prisons in an effort to promote the health and well-being of inmates.

She said the free legal services were delivered in active collaboration with the Legal Aid Scheme resulting in several cases of discharge, bails, bail denial and sentencing.

She said the HOPE project, a social inclusion project, was anchored on bringing true meaning to the transformational principle of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) to ensure that no one was left behind.

Madam Akpeere said efforts had also been made to promoting the economic independence of prison ex-convicts as well as facilitating communities and families’ acceptance of ex-convicts.

She said "The HOPE project has trained 48 beneficiaries in various business development modules such as record keeping, financial management, tax and legal obligations of small and medium enterprises”.

She said the project also developed business plans for 21 ex-convicts adding "Two businesses of the ex-convicts are currently receiving credit support from the Credit Union at economic interest rates”.

Madam Akpeere said the project had facilitated the creation of an online database of ex-convicts in and around Tamale thereby making CSD Reform the only CSO to have a secure online directory of prison ex-convicts in the northern part of the country.

She said "This database hosts the bio and contact data of ex-convicts, their skills levels and capacity development needs. This online directory is providing critical data for planning and targeted support".

She said the project equally reached out to 121 direct beneficiaries through service delivery and at least 3,800 indirect beneficiaries through awareness creation and sensitisation.

The pilot phase of the HOPE Project commenced on July 01, 2018 and will end by June 30, 2020, and it is supported by the Catholic Archdiocese of Tamale with funding support from Misereor.