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"No Democratic Country Desires That Its Prisons Are Choked" - Ibrahim Kwarteng


The Executive Director of the Crime Check Foundation (CCF), Ibrahim Oppong Kwarteng says no democratic country in the world will desire to have its prisons get choked by prisoners.


According to him, this becomes possible when such the said democratic country has no clear policy or law.


In an exclusive interview with Thinknewsonline.com, he said "No democratic country desires that its prisons are choked but if the policy fails. If there is no clear policy; if there is no law regulating how prisons are managed. If there are no laws that prevent petty offenders from going to prison, of course, our prisons will be choked"


He added that in order for Ghana not to face such challenges hence the call for the passage of the non-custodial sentencing law.


Mr. Oppong further explained that if there is such a law, petty offenders will not to thrown into jail.


"The decriminalization of vagrancy laws and advocacy project entails vagrants whose rights are being abused continuously in this country. I mean the poor, voiceless, homeless who because of poverty find themselves usually on the wrong side of the law. They have no places of abode so they have to make do on the streets"


"Because of poverty, the police find it easy apprehending them especially when there appears to be some crime in an area"


The Executive Director of CCF described such methods by some Police Officers in arresting vagrants as wrong.


"Most of these vagrants sell on the streets. We are not condoning the act of selling on the streets because it does not make our streets and cities beautiful. We want our streets to be comparable to Europe and the Americas"


"Anytime, we swoop in on them, we should also contextualize our situation. Why are they on the streets? Have successive governments been able to introduce interventions in rural communities to prevent them from moving to Accra? The answer is no!"


He stressed that governments over the years have done their bits, however, he believes, there ought to be more proactiveness.


"We have to ensure that these people are well catered for but that is not the story. People always come to the cities and that is aggravating the problem. So most of these people are in prison. When they sell, their goods are destroyed, ceased and at times these Assembly Task Force Members brutalize some of these people"


Mr. Oppong Kwarteng reminded all that if Ghana should pide itself as a 'Champion of Human Rights, it should not be condoning such acts by people who are supposed to ensure sanity in the system.


The Executive Director called on the various Assemblies across the country to increase advocacy for vagrants adding that such awareness creation will not only teach but help prevent petty offenses which lead to arrests.


On his part, the Public Relations Officer (PRO) of the Ghana Prisons Service, CSP Courage Atsem, said "We have an authorized capacity of 9,945 but as we speak today, we have a total population of 13,828; almost close to 14,000 so it tells you that these numbers are not supposed to be in our custody"


He revealed that a number of interventions are being made to reduce the number of prisoners.


"We are aware of the intervention by the Church of Pentecost, which has come on board to provide 5 camp prisons which in all will take about 1,500 inmates and with other measures being taken by the Police Administration, in conjunction with other relevant stakeholders just so we reduce the decongestion in our prisons"


He added that despite all these interventions, the Ghana Prisons Services still has a challenge with overcrowding in its prisons.


"We are enjoinder by law to meet all inmates who come into the custody with valid warrants. The only time, we have to return an inmate or a person convicted by the police is when the warrant is not valid"


He told Thinknewsonline.com that the Prisons Service have put out a number of measures to fight against the spread of covid-19 in their prisons.


"As we speak today, we have not recorded any in-prison covid case. All the cases recorded in prison were imported"


He also disclosed that the Prison Service has designated a 5K prison facility purposely for new admissions.


He advised the youth to stay out of trouble to avoid being placed behind bars.


Assistant Superintendent of Police, (ASP) Victor Dosoo of the Police Headquarters Public Affairs Department debunked claims that his colleague officers act violently toward persons who are either arrested through swoops or an operation


He appealed to the public to quickly report any officer who uses such means adding that the men and women in uniform are well-trained personnel.


Responding to persons who were arrested during a Homowo (A festival celebrated by the Ga State), he said "The Police Service has come this far does things by law. We are very minded by the fact that moments some suspects are arrested, they are treated as such and we ensure that we uphold all the legal rights that suspect has. We also ensure that we do not detain the suspect arbitrarily"


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


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