Outbreak of COVID-19 has led cabinet to review criminal laws to include Community Sentencing Policy
The outbreak of COVID-19 has led cabinet to review criminal laws of the country to entrench in it Community Sentencing Policy in order to decongest prisons.
The policy would among other things allow convicted persons to carry out some activities in the community as a form of punishment.
It would also ensure that some individuals who have engaged in pilfering are not mingled with hardened criminals.
The Minister of Information, Kojo Oppong Nkrumah who disclosed this at a press briefing on Thursday in Accra, said Cabinet was working on a community sentencing document to make such options available.
“You know in Ghana, we do not have a community sentencing policy. If successful, when Cabinet is assessing its laws, all of these will become options that can be embarked upon,” he said.
Mr Nkrumah noted that some legal brains in the past had proposed for community service to be part of the criminal laws of the country as a means of checking overcrowding and to further decongest the country’s prisons.
He mentioned that the country lacks a Custodial Sentencing Bill which the Ghana Prisons Service had been advocating for its immediate passage.
Isaac Kofi Egyir, the Director of Prisons in Charge of Operations indicated that the service were working tirelessly in ensuring that the Bill get passed as soon as possible.
He called for collaborative effort to get the Bill passed to save the current prison situation for the inmates safety.
“We in the Ghana Prisons Service have been strong advocates for quick passage of the law that regulate non-custodial sentences. I think that this is the right time that we all put our hands together to get this passed as quickly as possible to save the situation. We have made our inputs and it has gotten to the appropriate authorities and it is being worked on,” Mr Egyir stated.
As part of efforts by the government to ease congestion in prisons, the President, Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo granted 808 prisoners amnesty for them to carry on with their lives at home.
The category of convicts who benefitted from the President’s gesture included first-time offenders, those who are in critical condition, inmates on death row commuted to life imprisonment.
Others are inmates serving life sentence commuted to 20 years definite term, and aged prisoners who are 70 years and above.
BY JOYCELINE NATALLY CUDJOE