Overcrowding Prisons
Overcrowding Prisons

Mr Edmund Amarkwei Foley, a human rights activist, has urged the Government to set national targets to reduce the number of people in jail.

He noted that the Nsawam Prison, for instance, was built to house about 800 inmates, but currently had more than 2,000.

There was, therefore, the need to roll out measures to address the issue of high prison population.

Mr Foley said the move, however, needed to go hand-in-hand with very concrete crime prevention measures, particularly within crime prone areas.

He said this in an interview with the Ghana News Agency in Accra during a media workshop on decriminalising petty offences in Ghana.

The workshop, organised by the Commonwealth Human Rights Initiative (CHRI), was to expose media personnel to the ACHPR ‘Principles’ to enhance reportage and give visibility to regional instruments that promote criminal justice reforms.

The African Commission on Human and People’s Rights (ACHPR), under its Principles on Decriminalization of Petty Offences in Africa, defines petty offences as minor crimes for which the punishment is prescribed in law to carry a warning, community service, low-value fine or short term of imprisonment, often for failure to pay the fine.

Mr Foley said security agencies, particularly the Police, knew crime flash points in the country and, as such, Ghana should start using social intervention measures to get people in those communities moving away from a life of crime.

“So, it is not just speedy justice to get people out but also a concerted programme alongside to prevent re-offending or offending,” he added.

He said Ghana’s high prison population was way above global standards and promoted significant human right violations because of a penal system that was essentially punitive.

He noted that research had shown that there were a number of petty offences for which people need not go to jail.

Madam Mina Mensah, the Head of Africa Office, CHRI, said a Declaration in Ouagadougou and Luanda had recommended that member states decriminalised certain offences as part of efforts to reform the Criminal Justice System.

She said, years on, it had been realised that nothing was being done so the African Union had decided to adopt some principles to guide member states to decriminalise the offences.

Madam Mensah said as part of the advocacy, CHRI was implementing a project to encourage Ghana to use decriminalisation as one of the modules, and called for media engagement to assist in the advocacy to decriminalize petty offences.

She said the capacity of participants must be built to help create awareness on the ACHPR Principles on Decriminalisation of Petty Offences and the Ouagadougou and Luanda Guidelines.

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