Minister-designate pleads for speedy legislation to decongest prisons

Former Deputy Attorney General and Minister-designate for the Interior Ministry, Ambrose Dery, has pleaded with Parliament to act speedily and pass a legislation to help decongest the prisons.

The legislation would he said would deal with pre-trial detention, non-custodial sentences, separation of remand and convicts.

He made the statement during his vetting by Parliaments Appointment Committee for his nomination Saturday.

Answering a question on the Justice For All Program from Member of Parliament (MP) for Lawra, Anthony Abayifa Karbo, at on decongesting the prisons, Mr Dery said the how-to were captured in the New Patriotic Party’s 2016 manifesto.

In 2007, the Attorney-General’s Department/Ministries in close collaboration with the Judicial Service of Ghana, the Ghana Police and Prisons Service, Lawyers, as well as Civil Society groups introduced the Justice for All Programme aimed at alleviating prison overcrowding.

The programme achieves this by setting up special courts to adjudicate remand prisoner cases in prisons throughout the country.

In 2014, the POS Foundation in partnership with the Center for Law and Development at GIMPA law faculty and with Funding from Star-Ghana (USAID, DANIDA, DFID and EU) collaborated with the Judiciary and Ghana’s Prison Service to organize the ‘Justice For All Program’ in six Prisons within four regions.

Up to one-third of Ghana’s prison population consists of prisoners who are detained while awaiting trial. The ‘Justice for All Programme’ under the project name Access to Justice Project for Remand Prisoners seeks to alleviate prison overcrowding by setting up special courts in prison to adjudicate remand prisoner cases in the country.

The project also conducted research and advocacy for the purpose of closing the primary legislative loopholes, which permits the indeterminate detention of un-convicted prisoners. The main focus was on Article 14(4) of the 1992 Ghanaian Constitution.

The 2014 program brought justice to 259 Remand Prisoners. The partnership continued with the Remand Review Task Force (Judiciary, Attorney General, Police and Prison)

The incoming Interior Minister acknowledged that “Right now we have about 13000 prisoners and the place is crowded…in the interim, there is a provision especially in Nsawam Prison where a judge goes to sit there and tries to alleviate or ameliorate the situation.

“We would continue to pursue those approaches until honorable members corporate with us to pass the necessary legislation to enable us to revamp the whole system bearing in mind that we want people to come out,” he said.

According to him, there are considerations to have a system where non-custodial sentences can be served without going to prison. 

He, therefore, appealed to be members of the House the Ministry would be expecting their assistance to pass the bill into law.

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