Seven remand prisoners at the Kumasi Central Prison have been asked to go home after a special “Justice For All” in-prison court sitting which sort to reduce overcrowding at the Prisons nationwide.
53 others were granted bail, 2 others convicted and imprisoned after the hearing at the Kumasi Central Prison by the Ghana Remand Review Taskforce made up of the Judicial Service together with the Office of the Attorney-General, the Ghana Prisons Service and Ghana Police Service as well as POS Foundation- Civil Society.
The basis for this freedom exercise is tied to Article 14(4) of the 1992 Ghanaian Constitution which declares that “a person who is arrested or detained, but has not received a trial within a ‘reasonable period of time’, is entitled to unconditional release or release subject to conditions necessary for reappearance for judicial proceedings.”
At a press briefing in Kumasi, the Chairman of the Justice For All programme, Justice ClemenceHonyenugaindicated that majority of the cases they sat on were fraud-related cases.
He cautioned the public against people who go about defrauding innocent people of their properties and monies with the pretense of helping them get biggers favors and opportunities.
Justice Honyenugaurges the public to avoid shortcuts and use the right channels and the approved ways for their daily activities and other services to avoid been swindled by scammers.
Jonathan OseiOwusu, the Executive Director of POS Foundation, the facilitator of the Justice For All Programme, said the inmates were discharged as a result of their unjustified lock-up in prison as remand persons usually due to failure by the state to arraign them before the court.
The Commander of the Kumasi Central Prison, Nelson Duut commended the team for their efforts in helping to decongest prisons.
He said the Kumasi Prison which was built with a maximum capacity of 800 now holds over 2000 inmates including convicts, remand prisoners and inmates on trials.
The Justice For All Programme is a state driven and POS Foundation facilitated initiative that seeks to help decongest prisons in Ghana looking at cases of remand prisoners.
The 2007 Prisons Service Annual Report stated that 13,335 prisoners were held in prisons designed to hold approximately one-third of that number.
The Ghana Prisons Service statistics state that the total prison population as at Monday, February 22, 2016, was 14,534. Of that 2,464 were Remand Prisoners or on pre-trial detention, which represents 18.2 percent of the total prison population in Ghana as compared to 31.5 percent in 2007.
It is common for as many as fifty-five inmates to share a cell intended for twelve. Overcrowding contributes to the prevalence of communicable diseases. This is compounded by inadequate medical facilities and the fact that the prisons supply only the most basic medicines.
According to POS Foundation, the issue of overcrowded prisons, lengthy pretrial detention remains a serious problem in Ghana.
The Foundation said sometimes detainees serve more time in detention awaiting trial than the actual sentence the crime requires. The report also indicates that pretrial detainees are frequently held with convicted prisoners.
The facilitators indicated that there is, therefore, an urgent need for civil society interventions to address the challenges faced by un-convicted detainees.
The situation which is very much alarming has necessitated this initiative “Justice For All Programme” with collaboration from the above mentioned institutions.