Background of the Justice for All Programme
The Justice for All Programme (JFAP) is a State led intervention, established in 2007 to alleviate prison overcrowding by setting up Mobile In-prison Special Courts to adjudicate remand/Pre-trial prisoner cases throughout the country. This initiative enjoys the collective efforts of the Judicial Service of Ghana, the Office of the Attorney-General, the Ghana Prisons and Police Service, CHRAJ as well as POS Foundation (Civil Society body that serve as facilitators).
Article 14(4) of the 1992 Constitution stipulates that a person who is arrested or detained, but has not received a trial within a ‘reasonable period of time’, is entitled to unconditional release or release subject to conditions necessary for reappearance for judicial proceedings. What constitutes reasonable time is yet to be properly determined – and it is the absence of the codification of this rule that is greatly responsible for the excessive periods in which prisoners in Ghana are held without trial.
Congestion has forced prisoners to sleep in very dehumanizing positions in prison cells. It is common for as many as fifty-five (55) inmates to share a cell intended for twelve (12). The report by the UN Special Rapporteur on Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment, Juan Mendez indicted Ghana on these deplorable conditions resulting from the overcrowding in our prisons which is below the United Nations Minimum Standard Rules for the Treatment of Prisoners (Nelson Mandela Rules). To heighten the issue of overcrowded prisons and the lengthy pre-trial detention, sometimes detainees serve more time in detention awaiting trial than the actual sentence the crime requires.
Records from Ghana Prisons Service Criminal Records Units states that the total prisoner population at the end of December, 2018 was 14,910 as against the authorized nationwide prison capacity of 9,875 with an overcrowding rate of 51%. The population comprised 13,000 convicts and 1,910 pre-trial prisoners (un-convicted persons).
The situation where Remand prisoners were held together with Convict prisoners meant that a reduction in the number of Remand inmates was a significant effort towards the reduction in the overall prison population. This necessitated this initiative “Justice For All Programme”, with collaboration from the above mentioned institutions, directly positioned under the supervision of the office of the Chief Justice and coordinated by the National Remand Review Taskforce while being facilitated by the POS Foundation.