Eight hundred and thirty remand prisoners were discharged between 2007 and 2019 under the Justice for All Programme.
This figure represents 18.72 per cent of the 4,435 remand prisoners who appeared before the court sittings which were held in the Akuse Male Prison, Sekondi Central Prison and the Koforidua Local Prisons.
According to statistics by the Ghana Prisons Service (GPS), 1,571 prisoners were granted bail while 171 of them were convicted.
With the remaining 1,863 cases, many were dismissed while a few others were also referred to the psychiatric hospital.
The Justice for All Programme is an initiative of the Ministry of Justice and Attorney General’s Department, introduced in Ghana in 2007 to help promote access to justice and for speedy trial of cases of remand prisoners.
Situation in Ghana
Remand prisoners are inmates whose cases have not been determined by the law court. They have not been convicted and are therefore awaiting the courts to determine their fate by either acquittal or imprisonment.
In Ghana, however, most of these prisoners are delayed justice which results in they spending many years in prisons without trial.
According to the criminal records section of the GPS, as of May 2011, the remand prisoner population in the country’s prison stood at 4,565, amounting to about 30 per cent of the total prison population of 14,552.
The situation does not only cause congestion in the various prisons but also overburdens the GPS which is essentially designed to meet the needs of the sentenced rather than the remand prisoners.
Speaking to the Daily Graphic in Accra yesterday, the Chief Public Relations Officer (PRO) of the Ghana Prisons Service, Chief Supt Courage Atsem, said the initiative had had a positive impact on the operations of the service, particularly with regard to issues of congestion and the challenges which came with transporting inmates from the prisons to the court.
Additionally, he said, it had also helped relieve the service of the challenges it went through to cater for such prisoners since no extra budget was provided for their care. “This programme seeks justice to give whom justice has been denied. We know justice delayed is justice denied and for someone to be on remand for a long period of time without trial is unacceptable and doesn’t speak well of the country’s justice,”
For such reasons, the PRO said the introduction of such an initiative was a great move and would help address the weaknesses in the country’s justice system.
He, however, said due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the programme was halted last year to prevent any external contact with the inmates.
Chief Supt Atsem further expressed the hope that with the current COVID-19 situation in the country, the initiative would soon take off.