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Crime & Punishment of Monday, 19 June 2023

Source: GNA

Ghana’s remand prison population reduces significantly-POS Foundation

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Ghana’s remand prison population has reduced significantly from 33 per cent in 2017 to 9.8 per cent in 2023.

This was disclosed by Mr Johnathan Osei Owusu, the Executive Director of the Perfector for Sentiments (POS) Foundation, implementers of the “Justice for All Programme” (JFAP) on Friday, at the opening session of a day’s workshop for Judges and magistrates on the new Narcotics Control Commission Act 2020 (Act 1019) in Sunyani.

Describing it as a remarkable achievement, he said the feat was attained partly due to the implementation of the JFAP, and commended the judiciary, Police and Prisons Services as well as all stakeholders for supporting the programme.

Mr Owusu explained that the JFAP was a state-led intervention, established in 2007 to alleviate prisons of overcrowding, by setting up Mobile In-prison Special Courts, to adjudicate remand and pre-trial cases in prisons nationwide.

This initiative enjoyed the collective efforts of the Judicial Service of Ghana, Office of the Attorney-General, Ghana Prisons and Police Service, Commission on Human Rights and Administrative Justice (CHRAJ), and the POS Foundation, a civil society body that served as facilitators.

The workshop, jointly organised by the Judicial Training Institute, POS Foundation, and the Open Society Initiative for West Africa (OSIWA), a non-governmental organisation was on the theme: “the Narcotics Control Commission Act 2020 (Act 1019): effective implementation of the Act, and the role of judges and magistrates in handling people who use drugs”.

It seeks to equip the judges and magistrates with the requisite knowledge of changes that had been introduced by the Act, and the jurisdiction conferred on the trial Court by Act 1019.

Mr Owusu, said the nation’s judicial system was performing better compared to that of other neighbouring countries like Nigeria whose remand prison population was pegged at 69 per cent, Liberia 48 per cent and Kenya 42 per cent.

Justice Patrick Bayeh, a Supervising High Court Judge in Sunyani described the workshop as essential and timely, saying judges and magistrates were only used to the old narcotic control law.

He lauded the new Act 1019, saying it had introduced fairness into the judicial system in prosecuting cases relating to narcotics and expressed the hope participants would be well abreast with the new law.

Justice Tanko Amadu, the Director of the Judicial Training Institute and a Justice of the Supreme Court, and Mr Yaw Akrasi-Sarpong, a former boss of the then Narcotic Control Board (NACOB) attended.

The participants would be taken through the Act 1019, the role of judges in its application in line with best practices and drug use and dependence as public health issues.

Other topics to be treated include ‘Ghana’s commitment to international and regional drug reform and how to effectively meet these commitments’, as well as ‘thinking outside the box’, ‘cannabis governance, the international and national perspectives.

The Narcotics Control Commission Act, 2020, Act 1019 was passed on 20th March 2020, and received Presidential assent on 11th May 2020.

It had come after a prolonged period of searching for more effective responses by law enforcement authorities.