Editorial

Editorial: We need penal law reforms

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Since 2007, the Justice for All Programme has served as the locus classicus in Ghana’s legal system in the protection and promotion of human rights in our penal system. Thus, it has ensured the dismissal of some 1,863 cases, and referrals to psychiatric hospitals.

These persons were part of those who had been on remand for three years and more without trial and sentencing. Interestingly, some of the offences that send these persons to be on remand for all these years were minor.

This is why The Chronicle finds the Justice for All Programme to be one of the best interventions in the country.

According to reports, there are about 14,960 persons in the country’s prisons, as against the 9,945 authorised prisons holding capacity. Obviously, the country’s prisons are overcrowded by over 5,000 inmates.

The impact of overcrowding of the prisons facilities is not the only challenge that the country must contend with, but the budgetary allocation each year for feeding, clothing and taking care of the health needs of the inmates.

Crime is on the ascendency in the country, and there is the likelihood that the numbers of inmates will be on the rise. This also suggests that the country’s budgetary allocation to the prisons would increase astronomically to affect other areas of the economy.

Already, a study conducted by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), in partnership with the Commonwealth Human Rights Initiative 2013 in Ghana, suggests that there is a socio-economic component of the excessive pre-trial detention on person detained, family, community, and the state.

That is, detained persons are exposed to diseases, suffer physical and psychological challenges, their families lose incomes and forfeit educational opportunities, including a multi-generational effect, in which the children of detainees are separated from their families, experience social stigma and suffer reduced educational attainments.

This is of grave concern to The Chronicle, because detention does not necessarily translate into transforming people to be of good character or responsible citizens.

We are of the view that the security institutions must descend on anyone who contravenes the law, just as we are also mindful that not all offences deserve custodial sentence.

It is our firm believe that offences like infractions and misdemeanour should not necessarily attract custodial sentences, rather penalties such as community service and payment of fines should be slapped on the convicts.

Instead of handing custodial or jail terms to convicts on offences of misdemeanour, w should rather explore non-custodial and community service, where such persons are made to work in public places like markets, schools, lorry stations and bus terminals to serve as lesson to others.

It is disturbing that about 70 per cent of persons spending their time behind bars are in their youthful years and due to stigma and other economic consequences, recidivism is high.

The Chronicle wants to appeal to the government, particularly the judicial service, to consider how to balance custodial sentences and other forms of punishment.

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