"Arresting Vagrants Is Inhumane" - CCF Director
The Executive Director of the Crime Check Foundation (CCF), Ibrahim Oppong Kwarteng has questioned Ghana’s democratic credentials, as the country’s prisons are choked and managed under deplorable conditions.
According to him, the situation, which dents Ghana’s image as the beacon of human rights, is as a result of failed policy direction to stem the canker.
Mr. Kwarteng made this observation when he was briefing the press on the implementation of a project to protect the rights of the poor and vulnerable in society.
The project, ‘Decriminalizing Vagrancy Laws and Advocacy’ (DVLA) is an Open Society Initiative for West Africa (OSIWA) funded programme.
The DVLA project seeks to create an enabling environment for vagrants (the homeless and other poor and voiceless persons) to know, claim and exercise their rights.
In an exclusive interview with Thinknewsonline.com, he said the low level of commitment to formulate policies and laws such as the Non-Custodial Sentencing law to check the unnecessary incarceration of petty offenders has contributed to congestion in prisons.
"No democratic country desires that its prisons are choked but if there is no clear policy, if there is no law regulating how prisons are managed and if there are no laws preventing petty offenders from going to prison, our prisons will be choked," he said.
Mr. Kwarteng who is also the Ambassador Extraordinaire of Ghana’s Prisons described as inhumane how some vagrants are targeted for arrest by police officers.
"Most vagrants sell on the streets and we do not condone the act because it does not make our streets beautiful. But it is inappropriate on the part of the police to arrest these people because of the situation they find themselves,” he said.
"The police must contextualize the situation when they arrest these vagrants who due to their impoverished conditions are targeted for arrests for carrying out their activities. Successive governments have failed to introduce interventions to improve their conditions,” he said.
He called on Metropolitan, Municipal and District Assemblies (MMDAs) to increase advocacy to promote the rights of vagrants adding that such awareness creation will help prevent petty offenses which would lead to arrests.
The Public Relations Officer (PRO) of the Ghana Prisons Service, CSP Courage Atsem, commended CCF for its interventions such as the Petty Offenders project and its crime prevention advocacy to help decongest the prisons.
"We have an authorized capacity of 9,945 but as we speak today, we have a total population of 13,828. Through its advocacy and programmes, CCF has been pivotal in helping decongest the prisons. It pays fines of petty offenders to get them released and that creates space in the prison," he lauded.
Mr. Atsem advised the youth to stay out of trouble to avoid being put behind bars.
Assistant Superintendent of Police, (ASP) Victor Dosoo from the Police Headquarters Public Affairs Department urged the to quickly report any officer who uses unlawful means to effect arrests.
"Police officers have been trained professional and therefore we want to encourage the public to report to the Commander of the nearest police station when a police officer makes an arrest without basis," he said.
The decriminalization of vagrancy laws and advocacy project is an agenda spearheaded by the Crime Check Foundation (CCF) in partnership with the Open Society Initiative for West Africa (OSIWA).
Story by: Joshua Kwabena Smith