The Chief Executive Officer of Crime Check Foundation, Mr. Ibrahim Oppong-Kwarteng has advocated for reforms of Ghana’s prison systems, not donations.
He made this remark during the Induction Ceremony of the 2022 Fellows of the Public Interest Law and Advocacy Fellowship (PILA), organized by the Noble Law Group (NLG) last Thursday in Accra, Ghana.
Speaking during the event, Mr. Oppong-Kwarteng expressed his worry over the less recourse to non-custodial punishment measures in Ghana’s judicial system.
Ghana’s criminal law provides for a broad range of penalties other than imprisonment (custodial sentences). Section 294 of the Criminal and Other Offences (Procedure) Act, 1960 (Act 30) contains a list of the penalties that may be imposed on a convicted person.
These include; death, incarceration, detention, fines, restitution, and submission to Police supervision.
A non-custodial sentence is any punishment other than incarceration imposed by a court of law. Fines, probation orders, and conditional discharges are all examples of non-custodial penalties.
He intimated that Ghana’s judicial system has a number of judges who are too rigid with the interpretation of the law and who “sometimes do not consider the conditions and constraints of accused persons.”
Having worked with several prisons in Ghana, Mr. Oppong-Kwarteng bemoaned the lack of adequate practising lawyers in Ghana and the limited access to the few that exist- a situation that he described, as a leading cause for the quick conviction of many accused persons.
He commended the NLG and charged the inductees of the PILA Fellowship to remain resolute in their chosen passion for public interest law advocacy.
He further called on the Fellows to volunteer their service by providing free legal service to inmates and accused persons to resolve the many unresolved cases in Ghana’s judicial system.
Mr. Oppong-Kwarteng also called on politicians who are fond of donating to prisons to channel their energies to advocating for the passage of the Non-Custodial Bill into Law.
He revealed that there is a gaping loophole in government intervention in our prisons to become a purely correctional facility. He called for the government to revise the nature of Ghana’s prisons in order not to roll back the pace of development chalked so far.
He stated that prisoners who go through the current prison system come out more hardened following the conditions they are subject to in prison and the stigma they face in their communities. They are therefore willing to commit more horrendous crimes that will bring them back to prison.
Within the past three years, Crime Check Foundation has paid the fines and seen the release of over 2,000 prisoners who were victims of the excesses of the current judicial system.
The joy of working for Ghana and impacting society continues to be the motivation behind the work of the Crime Check Foundation, thus Mr. Oppong-Kwarteng called on the Fellows to imbibe those values in their projects and careers.
He also encouraged the Fellows to visit Ghana’s prisons.
The PILA Fellowship is an NLG initiative offering law students the opportunity to build their advocacy skills and undertake public service projects through a 1-year Fellowship programme.
Fellows are to work in partnership with communities, government agencies, and other key stakeholders on law and public policy issues affecting the country.