Petty offenders serving 24 months and below account for 63 per cent out of more than 1,500 prisoners in the Kumasi Central Prison, an official of the Prison has revealed.
Superintendent of Prisons (SP) Francis Awako, Officer in charge of Reception and Criminal Records, said the issues that brought most of them to the prison in 2021 could have been resolved through Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR).
He was speaking to the media on the sidelines of a stakeholder’s roundtable on the need to review the ADR Act and the Legal Aid Commission Act, to allow some petty/minor crimes to be resolved through ADR.
The event was put together by the Commonwealth Human Rights Initiative, an implementing partner of the USAID Justice Sector Support Activity.
Funded by the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), the project seeks to eliminate injustices in Ghana’s criminal justice system through several interventions.
Participants at the roundtable were from the Department of Social Welfare, Commission on Human Rights and Administrative Justice, Ghana Prisons Service, Legal Aid Commission, National Commission for Civic Education, the Attorney General’s Department and private ADR practitioners.
SP Awako said effective implementation of ADR mechanisms at all levels in the justice delivery system would go a long way to decongest Ghana’s prisons.
“The huge number of petty offenders being incarcerated is worrying, especially when people are sentenced for crimes that can easily be resolved through ADR,” he said.
“When some of these people come and add up to the congestion in the prison, it is very worrying knowing for the fact that our resources in taking care of them are very limited.”
He, therefore, advocated those petty crimes be resolved outside the courts to limit the number of inmates to ensure effective reformation of prisoners.
Even though ADR mechanisms were available, judges and other actors of the courts were not utilising them when it came to petty offences, he said, and recommended that judges should refer some of those cases to ADR.