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Opinions of Sunday, 14 August 2016

Columnist: Boateng, Emmanuel Agyemfra

Open letter to the Chief Justice of Ghana

Passing the Non-Custodial Penal Law to Decongest our Prisons Stations.
By Emmanuel Agyemfra Boateng
Dear Madam,
Your Ladyship, I bring you greetings from my humble abode and I pray you squeeze time from your busy schedule to read through my short letter.
I would like to commend your high office for the quick intervention you took that saw Remand Prisoners having their cases fast tracked in order to decongest our already choked Prisons, after Joy FM’s Seth Kwame Boateng’s documentary on the state of the Prisons stations dubbed ‘Locked and Forgotten’.
The ‘Justice For All Programme’ you rolled out has really gone a long way to help ease the high population in some of the Prisons stations which has brought smiles to some persons and also ease resource stress on the Ghana Prisons Service.
Your Ladyship, just as Oliver Twist asked for more, so are well meaning Ghanaians who take the administration of Justice seriously also ask for more from your humble office to decongest the Prisons stations.
Madam, most of us knew the Non-Custodial Penal law should’ve been passed somewhere last year and with the passage of that law; some convicted persons wouldn’t be in Prison but made to serve other alternative Prison sentence.
Your Ladyship, according to information on the Ghana Prisons Service website, authorized Prisoner population should’ve been 9,875 but they currently have over 14, 368 inmates in all their 43 Prisons stations.
In percentage wise, the Over Crowding rate stands at 45% which might get to 50% if your high office doesn’t intervene with the promotion of Non-Custodial sentencing.
Madam, with this statistics, it means the Ghana Prisons Service will have to do all what they can to feed the excess inmates which in a way bring s about a stretch on their already meager budget.
In the Prisons Service’s 2013 Annual Report, the Budget they requested for was GHC161, 422,181.68 but had only GHC107, 670,422, with over 53,751,759.68 being slashed away.
Madam, pat of this same budget is used in taking care of the inmates with most of them First Offenders and others who should’ve been sentenced to Parole, Probation, Fine orders and other non-custodial sentences.
Your Ladyship, I know for sure you will see to the speedy passage of the Non-Custodial Penal law and Ghanaians will be very glad with that.
Someone who is convicted for stealing a Goat goes into Prison with a high way armed robber and at the end of their sentence; the Goat thief who might be a first offender will come out hardened instead of the reformation and rehabilitation we talk about.
The Ghana Prisons Service in categorization of convicts in 2014 had First Offenders to be 6,554 which represent 85.02% of the total inmates population.
Madam, I know this data will move you a bit in your chair, but that’s the fact and without your quick intervention, we will be having just a handful of reformed and rehabilitated ex-convicts as against a chunk of hardened ex-convicts.
Seth Kwame Boateng did another documentary recently dubbed ‘Locked and Left to Rot’ which saw most remanded prisoners who are yet to meet a Judge after several painful years in custody.
I once again humbly pray your humble office will speed up work on the ‘Justice For All Programme’.
Your Ladyship, I hope and pray my letter will meet your earliest consideration and Ghanaians will laud you just as we did when you rolled out the ‘Justice For All Programme’.

Thank you.
Emmanuel Agyemfra Boateng.
(Concerned Ghanaian)
You can also contact the writer on agyenfra43@yahoo.com/0249542342.