A total of eighty persons on remand at some prisons across the country were set free under the “Justice For All Program” (JFAP), an initiative meant to decongest the country’s prisons.
Among those who benefited from the program were charged with the offence of possessing narcotic drugs.
In all, 519 remand cases were heard by the Justice For All Program panel as 256 were granted bill and 14 were also convicted and sentenced to prison.
This was revealed by Justice Clemence Honyenuga, an Appeals Court Judge and Chairman of the National Review Taskforce when the team visited the Koforidua Central Prisons, the last place of visit for the year.
Among the eleven places visited include the Winneba Local, Secondi central, Ankarful, Nsawam medium security, Akuse Local, Kpando Local, Ho Central, Sunyani Central, Kumasi Central, Tamale Centraland the Koforidua Central Prisons.
The process for the trial of the suspects was entirely paperless for the first time.
Briefing the media after the exercise, Justice Honyenuga assured the program will continue on till the last remanded prisoner is tried and come out from the prison.
He indicated that some of the suspects charged who were arrested and ought to be charged with the use of such narcotics pleaded guilty to the offence.
The Officer in Charge of the Koforidua Central Prisons, Assistant Director of Prison (ADP) Benedict Bob-Dery said the JFAP had helped reduce the number of inmates at the Koforidua prisons.
He said the Koforidua Prisons is currently made up of more than 650 inmates which is more than the capacity it is expected to admit but said authorities are trying to reduce the number of remands by taking advantage of an initiative such as the Justice For All Program.
Jonathan Osei Owusu, Executive Director of POS Foundation, a Human Right NBGE with the core mandate of promoting Human Right, Youth Development and Social Accountability for his part expressed disappointment the inability of some of the remand prisoners to meet their bail conditions and the refusal of some police investigators to execute the bail as some of the challenges facing the program.
At the two-day sitting in the Koforidua Central Prison led by Mr. Justice Constance Honyenuga heard the cases of 66 remand prisoners.
The remand prisoners were represented by three lawyers who all provided their legal services on a pro-bono basis and the State also for the State led by the Eastern Regional Attorney, Justice Emily Addo Okyere.
The JFAP was established in 2007 to help reduce overcrowding in the country’s system and also provide justice for remand prisoners whose trial had stalled or were yet to commence even though they had spent years in custody.
It is being done under the joint auspices of the Judicial Service, theAttorney-General’s Department, the Ghana Prisons and Police Services as well as Perfector of Sentiment (POS) Foundation.
This year’s event is being funded by the Danish International Development Agency (DANIDA)
The program involves the setting up of special courts at the prisons where the cases of prisoners whose cases meet the criteria of the program are reviewed.
Ten years since the inception of the Justice for All Program attended to a total remanded case of 3,812 out of which 752 persons were discharged, 1241 were granted bail and 149 others were also sentenced to prison.
Source: David Sackey