We won't build prisons anymore

BY: Arku Jasmine

I don't condone crime and I will be the last person to advocate that deviants in society, those who make life unbearable for law-abiding citizens, should be let off the hook when they commit crime and are brought before legally established institutions in the country. 

I must confess that I am uneducated when it comes to the interpretation of the law and which sentence should be handed to what category of convicted persons. What I can profess is what is limited to common sense and logic only. Last week, I read a story with the headline: "Wailing  in court as 4 Robbers get 280 years" .

Just like any law-abiding citizen and a victim of robbery, my initial reaction was" Get those bald heads out of the town" or we must intensify our efforts to confine these old crooks and get on with  serious business. I was,  however, appalled when I decided to read the story in toto and realised  that the convicts were all teenagers, perhaps first offender deviants who were on an adventure spree.

The story said in part that "the precincts of the Kumasi Metropolitan Assembly (KMA) Court on Tuesday turned into mourning grounds as relatives of four armed robbers wailed uncontrollably after they were sentenced to a total of 280 years by the court for robbery.

The story continued that "the convicts robbed the complainant, Gawusu Laminouf, of his mobile phone, hand bag,  one white dress, shoe spray and GHc 2,500.

 It said further that "the convicts who are: Frank Agyare, 18; Eric Yeboah, 18; Lawrence Prempeh, 18; and Philip Yaw Asante, 20, all unemployed, pleaded guilty to the two counts of conspiracy to commit crime and robbery and the court presided over by William Boampong convicted them on their own plea and sentenced them to 70 years each with hard labour. Passing judgement, the story added, the judge said "crimes in general and robbery in particular, have become rampant in Ashanti Region in recent times. Therefore, there is the need to keep the convicts away from law abiding citizens".  Forever  (mine)

The sentence, he said, was to serve as deterrent to other criminals.

Well noted! But in my candid opinion, the sentence is too harsh and does not serve the basic purpose for which the prisons were established-REFORMATION. 

One may ask what purpose it will serve when we destroy the lives of these four energetic deviants when we can reform them and make them useful for nation development.  In  doing so was it not possible to confine them for a short period of between five and ten years? 

 To jail these deviants for that long, a sentence akin to life imprisonment, in my opinion, is harsh and unreasonable. It is heartwarming that just a couple of weeks ago scores of such deviants in our prisons wrote the West Africa Secondary School Certificate Examination (WASCE) and a great number of such candidates (prisoners) qualified for the tertiary institutions in the country. This is just an example to make the point that these deviants could be useful to  themselves and the country could also utilise their abilities.

Again, most of such deviants who are moved by sheer adventure, so soon, realise their folly and repent after serving a few years in incarceration, of course with the guidance of our indefatigable prisons officers. Increase in crime in Ashanti Region; yes! But I still maintain that the sentence was harsh.

Again, we as a country are not sure whether or not there are records that criminals are deterred by the number of years slapped on other convicts. In other words, is there any correlation between years served  in prison and level of crime? If there is none, then the reason given by the judge that "the sentence is to serve as a deterrent to other criminals" may not be plausible and just.

Finally, I push part of the blame on the police investigators in this case, for doing a shoddy work in their line of duty, to establish whether or not the 'guys are real criminals or not' . If they had done diligent work, I think the large sympathetic following at the court who wailed and mourned would not have been around in the first place. 

Again, why do we conclude that anybody who deprives a neighbour of his/her possession is an armed robber? I therefore wish to appeal to Lawyer Chris Arcmann Ackummey and his legal friends to take up this case. They have done it before. “We don’t want no prisons anymore; all we need to build is educational institutions!”  

Article by: Timothy Gobah