President Nana Akufo-Addo
President Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo has granted amnesty to 808 convicted prisoners.
Sources say the gesture forms part of the effort to combat the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) which is currently ravaging many countries including Ghana.
The ‘fortunate’ convicts released included 783 first offenders, 11 seriously ill persons, seven inmates on death row whose sentences were commuted to life imprisonment, four inmates who were serving life sentences commuted to 20 years definite term and three very old prisoners who are all 70 years and above.
A statement issued in Accra and signed by the Director General of Ghana Prisons Service, Patrick Missah, said the first-time offenders who served half of their sentences, 11 seriously ill persons, and three very old prisoners “are to be released outright.”
“However, seven prisoners on death row would have their sentences commuted to life imprisonment, while four prisoners serving life sentence will be commuted to 20 years definite term,” according to the statement.
The statement said the President ordered the release upon a recommendation from the Ghana Prison Council and in consultation with the Council of State in accordance with Article 72 (1) of the 1992 Constitution.
NDC 4,000 Request
As the President was ordering the release of the inmates, members of the opposition National Democratic Congress (NDC) were in Parliament saying the President should release more than 4,000 prisoners in an effort to combat the spread of the COVID-19.
The NDC Member of Parliament (MP) for Builsa North, James Agalga, who made the call at the precincts of Parliament yesterday on behalf of his party, said the incarcerated population, which is about 14,000, is uniquely vulnerable to the pandemic because of overcrowding and he expected the President to release some 4,000 of them who, he said, had petty criminal offences.
The Ranking Member on the Committee for Defence and Interior said, “The situation is the right moment for the President to consider the option of exercising the prerogative mercy function under the Constitution to provide for or grant pardon to, at least, the petty offenders who have been incarcerated within this period.”
Agalga, who is a former Deputy Minister of the Interior, asserted that this would help decongest the prison facilities, adding that Ghana would head for a disaster if there should be an outbreak in prisons across the country.
“Let’s draw useful lessons from what happened in Colombia. Twenty-three prisoners lost their lives because they were agitated as a result of the coronavirus. UK and other countries have drawn useful lessons in what happened in Colombia,” the MP pointed out.
By Ernest Kofi Adu