Mr Nelson Basubinin Duut, Director of Prisons Technical and Services, on Thursday suggested that Prison overcrowding could be addressed by decriminalizing petty offences in Ghana.
He said studies on the current overcrowding situations of Ghanaian prisons from 2015 to 2019 revealed that our prison facility had an average overcrowding rate of 44.36 per cent with 2017 recording the least of 33 per cent due to the intervention of the Justice for All Programme.
Mr Duut stated during a day’s National Multi-Sectoral Consultation on Criminal Justice Reforms section organized in Accra by the Commission on Human Rights and Administrative Justice (CHRAJ).
The consultation was on the theme; “National Strategies for the Implementation of the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights (ACHPR) Principles on the Decriminalization of Petty Offences in Africa”.
It was attended by technocrats from various institutions such as Amnesty International, Ghana Prisons Service and other Human Right advocacy institutions to deliberate on the subject.
Mr. Duut said “the prison population as at April 15, 2019, stood at 15,019 as against an authorized capacity of 9,875 with an overcrowding rate of 52.1 per cent”.
He said prison facilities such as Kumasi Central, Wa Central, Nsawam Medium Security, Ho Central, Koforidua Local, Sunyani Local and Sekondi Central had inmates beyond their holding capacity which had created an acute overcrowding situation.
According to him, the overcrowding situation had brought many effects on the service and inmates.
He explained that the offences committed by most of these inmates were not comparable to the amount of money spent to feed them.
He said the overcrowding has also created a situation where inmates compete for limited resources available; in some instances, inmates had to sleep in turns due to the dormitory sizes, poor sanitation, inadequate bedding and toiletries high rate of illness and outbreak of communicable diseases and many more.
Mr Duut said existing interventions to help mitigate overcrowding such as Justice for all Programme, General Amnesty, Internal Prison Transfers had contributed significantly over the years to the reduction of the prison population, adding that the last amnesty was granted on September 21, 2016.
He also proposed that imposition of reasonable fines, suspended sentences, Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR), community services, signing of bond to be of good behaviour and substance abuse therapy and rehabilitation were some non-custodial measures which could be enforced to reduce the number of criminals sentenced into custody.
Mr Duut said “Petty or minor offences such as defecating in unauthorized places, urinating in public and minor traffic offences, offensive conducts, smoking or use of Indian hemp and loitering” should be decriminalized.