Community service

Community Services Bill will decongest prisons, stakeholders admit

Speakers

Participants at the one-day sensitization workshop on the Community Service Penalty Bill in Takoradi agreed that the Bill, once enacted, would be the surest way to reduce overcrowding in the various country’s prisons.

They therefore pleaded with the organizers to work with the media to highlight the benefits of the community service sentence for society to accept in order to reduce the overcrowding situation in Ghana’s prisons.

Participants called for the involvement of Traditional Leaders and Assembly members so that they can educate their communities and further called on the media to advocate and spread the message to others and lobby for the adoption of the bill which has not yet been sent to Parliament.

Ms. Mina Mensah, Director, Commonwealth Human Rights Initiative, Africa Office, mentioned some of the benefits of the bill, namely the unpaid work that offenders would give back to the government and their community where the offense was committed and young people n would not have to end their studies. because they had been sent to prison.

She said that most people go to prison because there is no other form of sentencing and since offenders are not reformed and society also fails to integrate offenders, it they only had to commit crimes to return to prison.

She noted that the overcrowding challenge was not due to the high crime rate and therefore called on journalists to continue to set the agenda on alternative sentencing to decongest prisons.

Superintendent Ibrahim Yakubu, Superintendent of Prisons, who spoke of the urgent need for community service sentences as a prerequisite for improving the delivery of justice in Ghana, noted that the GHc 1.80p granted to inmates as the costs of Food was woefully inadequate, hence the need to speed up the processes to pass the bill into law.

Superintendent Yakubu said there were many disadvantages because the only form of punishment was custodial sentence, adding that anyone who committed an offence, minor offense and young offenders all went to jail.

He suggested that the impact of custodial sentences had led to prison overcrowding, adding that according to 2020 figures, 52% of the country’s prisons were overcrowded.

He revealed that people were sent to prisons for two main reasons, such as the protection of society and the opportunity for offenders to reform and reconcile their families and society as a whole.

Superintendent Yakubu noted that people were sent to prisons for corrections and not to punish them as being sent to prisons was a punishment since you are deprived or excluded from your family and society.

Ms. Esther Poku-Aduhene, program officer for CHRI, said the Home Office had forwarded the revised bill to the Attorney General’s (AG) office for advice and was putting in place measures to address the congestion. in prisons, improve detention conditions and reduce the occurrence of recidivism.

She said the Community Service Bill was an alternative to the custodial sentence for offenders convicted of certain types of offences, and would see offenders perform unpaid public work within a community and at his profit for a period not exceeding the term of imprisonment for which the court sentenced them.

She mentioned some community condemnations as compulsory unpaid work (cleaning, litter picking, redecorating community space and facilities) and said participating in these activities could result in behavior change.

She added that it would also reduce government costs and expenses, noting that the 80 pese of a cedi allocated daily to each inmate could be used in other profitable businesses.

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