Vice President Dr Mahamudu Bawumia has announced that government has completed drafting of the Non-Custodial Sentencing Bill, which will soon be laid before Parliament.
The Bill, upon passing into law, will provide Alternative Sentencing such as probation, parole and community service into the country’s criminal justice system
Vice President Bawumia disclosed these at the graduation ceremony and commissioning of Officer Cadets Course Intake 27 of the Ghana Prisons Service in Accra on Friday.
He noted that non-custodial sentence holds great potential to decongest the country’s prisons and significantly reduce the financial burden in the management of the prison system.
“The Prisons Administration, in collaboration with other stakeholders, is leading the advocacy for alternative sentencing policy to be introduced in the country.
“The necessary operational adjustments are being made, including; the human resource capacity to shoulder the additional responsibility,” Vice President added.
The graduation ceremony was the climax of the last of four batches of 1,500 new entrants for the Service drawn from varied professional backgrounds ranging from Accounting, Agriculture, Education, Engineering, Medicine and Social Sciences.
Vice President Bawumia commended management of the Prison Service for “continuing to make strides in discharging its mandate to ensure that opportunities for developing the skills and talents of inmates are available to help them reorganise their lives for the better. The programmes cover agriculture, trade, training in different vocations and formal education for offenders who are of school going age.”
He however expressed worry that some members of society were reluctant to accept ex-convicts back into their fold and continued to stigmatise former prison inmates.
“This unfortunate situation creates disadvantage to the ex-convicts and they are most of the time forced back to offending life with dire consequences to the society.
“I will therefore like to appeal to the general public to see prisoners’ integration as a shared responsibility and offer the necessary support to enable these ex-convicts properly re-integrate and contribute their quota to national development. Anything short of this will render all the efforts by Prison Service fruitless and society will be at risk,” he urged.
Vice President Bawumia charged the graduands to “internalise the principles of vigilance, humanity and fortitude. These must be your watchwords in your relationship with fellow officers and the inmates.
“Treat the prisoners with care, respect and decency without comprising your professional ethics. I have no doubt that you will succeed.”
He commended all award winners, especially Junior Under Officer Amos Benang, who won the Commandant’s Award, and Senior Under Officer Dr Florence Djoletoe, who was the best in Academics and the Best All-Round Officer Cadet.
Security Services under CAP 30
Meanwhile, Vice President Bawumia has also disclosed at the graduation ceremony that Cabinet has approved the placement of all security agencies under one pension scheme in order to ensure uniformity of benefits.
He said all the security agencies are now to be placed under the CAP 30 Pension Scheme.
“I am happy to announce that Cabinet has approved the placement of all the security agencies under a single pension scheme, CAP 30.
“So personnel of the Prisons Service, Fire Service, Police and Immigration are all going to be placed under CAP 30, which the military is already under,” the Vice President announced.
“Government is also working closely with the Service to improve the health system within our prisons, especially in this era of COVID 19. It is well understood that the disease spreads quickly in enclosed places like prisons which are commonly epicentre for infectious diseases. This is of great concern to the government particularly where there is overcrowding.
“In addition to the forty (40) medical personnel seconded from the Ghana Health Service, government has provided prison establishments with PPEs, infrared thermometers, washing soap, tissue papers and Veronica buckets. I will like to commend the Prisons administration on the swift manner the Service joined forces with other agencies in the Criminal Justice System and Ghana Health Service to respond more effectively to the COVID 19 threat,” Dr Bawumia stated.
The creation of Risk Communication Teams in all prisons comprising medical, chaplaincy and communication staff to educate and address the myth and anxiety surrounding COVID-19 as well as to tackle issues of stigmatisation has so far been effective, the Vice President indicated.