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Christian Council lauds CCF-OSIWA project on decriminalizing vagrancy laws

Source The Ghana Report.com

The Christian Council of Ghana (CCG) has added its voice to calls for the annulment of vagrancy laws from Ghana’s statutory books.

Receiving a delegation from the project team advocating the abolishment of vagrancy laws, the General Secretary of the CCG, Reverend Dr Cyril Fayose, described the initiative as a significant intervention and pledged the council’s support.

Rev Dr Fayose noted that Ghana has one of the most efficient law systems.

However, he was quick to raise an objection to some outmoded laws that are still in force.

“It is not fair for someone to steal rice and be jailed three years, but someone steals huge sums of money and is freed using technicalities in the law. Most of the laws are good, but sanctions attached to them are the problem. Some of the laws should even be sanction free,” he said.

He applauded Crime Check Foundation (CCF) for advocating to protect the poor from abuses.

“You are doing exactly what we do, so it will be easy for us to come into a partnership. I know work is being done to pass the Non-Custodial Sentencing Bill into law. We also do not have a parole system, and it is worrying. We will be happy to come into a collaboration to implement the project because it is in our interest,” the senior clergyman added.

A vagrant is a person without a settled home or regular work who wanders from place to place and lives by begging or hawking on the streets.

Oftentimes, district assemblies pass bylaws like fines which these vagrants are unable to pay and eventually end up in prison.

Through the collaboration between Crime Check Foundation (CCF) and the Open Society Initiative for West Africa (OSIWA), a one-year project themed, “Decriminalizing Vagrancy Laws and Advocacy” (DVLA) has been rolled out.

 

The CCF team engaging the General Secretary of the Christian Council of Ghana and the Director of Inter-Faith Ecumenical Relations

Commenting on the initiative, the Director of Inter-Faith and Ecumenical Relations at the Council, Reverend Abraham Opoku Baffuor, said it deserved all the attention it could get because it relates to human dignity.

“This is a matter of human dignity, which is core to the Christian value system. It is a laudable initiative,” he said.

Leading the delegation, the Executive Director of CCF Ibrahim Oppong Kwarteng urged other Christian groups and organizations to be vocal in pushing for reforms in society.

He also entreated the Christian Council to press for the removal of laws that are obsolete and draconian in nature.

“It will amaze you to see how poor persons are sentenced with dispatch because they cannot afford the services of lawyers, and this is a concern we want to talk about. We want to tackle the issues and how it affects the poor,” he said.

“At times, it is even difficult for judges to hand out obsolete sentences, but they are also minded by the sentencing regime, and that is why there is the need for us to push for the expunging of some of these laws that are outdated. Parliament agrees that most of these laws are outdated, but there is no pro-activeness. We have been talking about the Non-Custodial Sentencing Law, but successive governments have failed to pass it,” he expressed concern.

He also charged churches to provide counselling for persons engaged in crime.

Project Duration

The one-year project will be rolled out in 12 local government assemblies in three regions; Greater Accra, Ashanti, and Central.

“We have begun with the mapping, and we are engaging with the various district assemblies in the selected regions and the leadership of vagrants,” said Kwarteng, a member of the advocacy team.

The project will sensitize more than 1000 vagrants about their rights and responsibilities to prevent misunderstandings with the assemblies.

“In order not to seem as we are inciting vagrants against the district assemblies and the central government, we will also educate them about their duties as patriotic citizens,” he added.

Monitoring and Evaluation

To monitor the progress and effectiveness of the project, a contact centre will be created after the sensitization to address the concerns of vagrants at the partnering organization, Crime Check Foundation.

According to Kwarteng, the police will also be engaged to monitor the project’s progress.

The project runs from May 2021 to May 2022.

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