Chief Justice Pushes For Non-Custodial Sentencing

Chief Justice, Sophia Akuffo

Chief Justice, Sophia Akuffo, has delivered a keynote address at a multi-stakeholder conference on the Zero Draft Noncustodial Sentencing Bill.

The conference, held on Wednesday, October 10, 2018 in Accra, was under the theme, “Consolidating efforts to enrich the Zero Draft Noncustodial Sentencing Bill.”

It brought together key stakeholders from the Ghana Police Service, Ghana Prisons Service, Commission on Human Rights and Administrative Justice (CHRAJ), civil society, Ministry of the Interior, the Judiciary, among others.

It was aimed at educating stakeholders about the Bill and encouraging government to embrace it.

Perfector of Sentiments (POS) Foundation, which organized the conference, described noncustodial sentence or alternative sentence as punishment given by a court of law that does not involve a prison term.

Over the last 15 years, there has been heightened interest in the development of alternative sentences in Ghana and beyond.

The Chief Justice, in her address, encouraged all stakeholders whose inputs are critical for the passage of the bill to ensure that the draft is more specific.

She said that their deliberations should take into account issues of human rights and social reforms and the objectives of criminal justice.

A widow (name withheld), who claimed to be a mother of five and serving a three-month prison term at the Nsawam Prison, was brought to the conference to explain why she was jailed alongside her mother and sister, who is a nursing mother.

She stated that her sister, who has six kids, was also jailed three months after they were accused of stealing corn from a farm.

According to her, they had gone to the farm just to gather the corn leftovers after harvesting to feed their children but were arrested.

“The judge asked my sister to pay an amount of GHC350 to save us from jail,” she added.

Minister of the Interior, Ambrose Derry, in a statement read on his behalf, bemoaned overcrowding in prisons across the country and its associated costs.

He indicated, for instance, that the Nsawam Prison has an overcrowding rate of over 300 percent.

According to him, the Nsawam Prison was built to house about 890 inmates, but now accommodates around 3,480 prisoners, adding that there was about 52 percent overcrowding rate nationwide.

He disclosed that his ministry was in the process of submitting the draft bill to Cabinet for consideration.

POS Foundation said the time has come for the Non-custodial Sentencing Bill to be passed to reduce congestion in prisons nationwide.

By Melvin Tarlue