Plans To Decongest Prisons Underway

An officer receiving her parchment from the Vice-President

The Vice-President, Dr. Mahamudu Bawumia, yesterday announced that government had decided to embark on a comprehensive approach to decongest the country’s congested prisons through the promulgation of a law on alternative sentencing.

Dr. Bawumia said government had completed drafting the bill on non-custodial sentencing which would soon be laid before Parliament for the promulgation of alternative sentencing.

That would include a law on probation, parole and community service into the work of the Criminal Justice System in Ghana.

Speaking at the graduation parade of Intake 27 of the officer cadet corps of the Ghana Prisons Service at the Prison Officers Training School (POTS) in Accra, Dr. Bawumia stressed the belief that “these alternatives to custodial sentences hold great potential to decongest our prisons and significantly reduce the financial burden in the management of our prison system.”

Apart from that, he noted that “the necessary operational adjustments are being made, including the human resource capacity to shoulder the additional responsibility.”

He said government was also working closely with the Prisons Service to improve the health system within the country’s prisons, especially in this era of Covid-19.

That, he said, was partly because of the fact that the disease spreads quickly in enclosed places like prisons which are commonly epicentres for infectious diseases, an issue the Vice-President indicated was of great concern to the government, particularly where there is overcrowding.

“In addition to the support for the forty (40) medical personnel seconded from the Ghana Health Service, government has provided prison establishments with PPE, infrared thermometers, washing soap, tissue papers and Veronica buckets,” he disclosed.

He took the opportunity to commend the prisons administration on the swift manner the service joined forces with other agencies in the Criminal Justice System and Ghana Health Service to respond more effectively to the Covid-19 threat.

So far, the Vice-President said about 90 per cent of all the country’s prisons population had been covered under the National Health Insurance Scheme (NHIS), with cases handled including fresh registrations, renewals and replacements which were all done at no cost to the inmates.

He was, therefore, hopeful the registration would in due course be extended to all other prison establishments.

Dr. Bawumia indicated that government’s commitment to ensure that the Ghana Prisons Service has adequate resources to do its work has led to a number of interventions. He said one of the interventions is the recent expansion of the manpower base of the service.

The 27th intake officer cadet corps of the Ghana Prisons Service commenced training at the POTS on January 17, 2020.

This was after an initial five-week practical attachment on the job in prisons across the country.

The total number of participants on the course was 150, comprising 113 males and 37 females, representing 75.3 per cent and 24.7 per cent respectively.

At the end of the day, Senior Under Officer (SUO), Florence Djoletoe, a medical doctor by profession emerged all-round (best) cadet officer.

By Charles Takyi-Boadu