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Grant Amnesty to petty offenders to decongest prisons – POS urges government

BY: Vincent Amenuveve
Mr Jonathan Osei Owusu, the Executive Director, POS Foundation (left) presenting the covid-19 items to Chief Superintendent Francis Yao Adzaklo, Deputy Commander, Navrongo Central Prisons
Mr Jonathan Osei Owusu, the Executive Director, POS Foundation (left) presenting the covid-19 items to Chief Superintendent Francis Yao Adzaklo, Deputy Commander, Navrongo Central Prisons

The Executive Director of Perfector of Sentiments Foundation (POS),facilitators of the Justice For All Programme, Mr Jonathan Osei Owusu has entreated government to as a matter of urgency grant amnesty to inmates convicted of minor crimes so as to decongest the various prisons and help fight the spread of the Corona Virus (COVID-19) pandemic.

Mr Owusu further observed that the prisons in the country were extremely congested and should they record any infection of the novel virus, the consequences would be grave.

He stated this when his outfit with funding from German Development Cooperation (GIZ) donated some Personal Protective Equipment (PPE),hygiene materials and food items worth GH₵32,000.00 to the Navrongo Central Prisons in the Kassena-Nankana Municipality of the Upper East Region on Tuesday, June 16,2020.

Additionally, the POS Foundation presented a cheque of GH₵1,000.00 to the Prisons.

Mr Owusu further called on President Akufo-Addo to activate Article 72 of the 1992 Constitution that gives him the prerogative to pardon petty offenders and non-violent drug users to ensure that not only would the health precautionary and safety protocols like social distancing be adhered to but it would also enhance management at the various facilities.

He noted that it was imperative for government through the Ministry of Interior and the Ministry of Justice and Attorney General to work with urgency to ensure that the appropriate Legislative or Constitutional Instruments are passed to grant probation and parole as non-custodian sentencing to deserving prisoners.

“The Foundation is equally calling on government to speed up the passage of the Community Service Bill currently at the Ministry of Interior and this will contribute significantly to the decongestion of Ghana’s Prisons,” he stressed.

The Executive Director urged the government to increase the daily feeding grant of GH₵1.80 to each prisoner as that is inadequate to feed inmates with a balanced diet to boost their immune system to help fight the COVID-19 and other infectious diseases.

Whilst commending the officers of the Ghana Prisons Service for their diligence in curbing the spread of COVID-19, the director urged them not to relent in their efforts, adding that “because if COVID-19 enters the prisons we will not be able to quantify its impact and cost to the nation”.

Receiving the items, the Deputy Commander of the Navrongo Central Prisons, Chief Superintendent Francis Yao Adzaklo, commended POS Foundation and its partners for the support and indicated that the items would be put to good use.

The Deputy Commander explained that the Navrongo Central Prisons has only one vehicle for its day to day activities which is not the best for the smooth running of the Prisons.

Mr Adzaklo said although the actual capacity of the Navrongo Central Prison was 80, the facility currently has 210 inmates and the situation has put stress on all its facilities including Water, Sanitation and Hygiene (WASH) while creating overcrowding in the cells.

The Deputy Commander called on government to take steps to immediately decongest the prisons as well as implement the non-custodian sentences to people who are convicted of minor crimes.

Mr Adzaklo appealed to the government and other organizations to continue to support the Prisons with PPEs to help protect themselves and the inmates saying thankfully no one including the inmates has so far tested positive to the virus.