A-G to present bills proposing sentencing other than imprisonment
The Attorney General and Minister of Justice, Godfred Yeboah Dame, is preparing to lay before Parliament two bills proposing alternative sentencing other than custodial sentencing for lawbreakers.
The bills are the Plea Bargaining Bill and the Alternative Sentencing Bill. There is no expected date for the bills to be sent to Parliament.
Speaking on the move intended to decongest prisons, the attorney general said he was “treating both pieces of legislation as part of my priority legislation this year”.
He was speaking on a working visit to the James Camp Prison and Senior Correctional Centre at Roman Ridge, Accra on Thursday, November 18.
Dame was accompanied by his deputies Mr Alfred Tuah-Yeboah and Ms Diana Asonaba Dapaah, the Solicitor-General, Mrs Helen Akpene Awo Ziwu and the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP), Mrs Yvonne Atakora Obuobisa.
Explaining parts of what the Plea Bargaining Bill seeks to achieve, Dame said, “treason, violent offences such as rape, genocide, robbery, kidnapping, murder, attempted murder, abduction, defilement, piracy and offences related to public elections will be excluded from the plea bargaining. Apart from these offences, plea bargaining will be available in all other cases”.
Plea bargaining, as practised in other jurisdictions, involves an accused person partially or wholly committing to investigations so as to have some or all of the charges leveled against them dropped. It is essentially a bargain offered by prosecutorial powers.
According to Dame, the Cabinet has greenlit the Plea Bargaining Bill to be laid before Parliament while the Alternative Sentencing Bill is undergoing stakeholder consultations.
Prison congestion in Ghana
Ghana’s prison population stands at 13,485 a 2021 research has revealed.
This number shows that Ghana’s prisons are at least 35.6% above capacity. Some 88.18% of people in prison are convicted while the remainder makes up prisoners on remand.
Speaking at a two-day external stakeholders’ engagement in October on the Prison Service Bill before Parliament, the Director-General of Prisons, Isaac Egyir, bemoaned the overcrowding that has characterised Ghana’s prisons for decades.
“The inmate population is [supposed to be] 9,945,” Egyir told an audience in Accra on Thursday, October 28.
Making a case for the replacement of the 49-year-old Prisons Service Act 1993, the Acting General Director said the new bill proposes interventions needed to solve the problem of overcrowding with the introduction of the parole directorate.
In a 2018 research, the service revealed that more than half of the inmates in Ghana’s prisons could be counted among the economically active population.
“What is more worrying is the fact that young persons between the ages of 18-25 constitute 50.68%, which is more than half of the total number of inmates admitted into custody,” Chief PRO of the Ghana Prisons Service, Chief Superintendent Courage Atsem, revealed in an earlier interview.