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Amnesty International releases report on state of Ghana’s prisons

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Amnesty International (AI), a non-governmental organization, has called on Government to expedite action on plans to decongest the country’s prisons.

In addition, the Judiciary should speed up processes on trials to check over- crowding in the prisons.

Mr James Welsh, Coordinator, Health and Human Rights, AI, made the call during a courtesy call on Mr Samuel Okudzeto Ablakwa, Deputy Minister of Information in Accra on Tuesday, to inform him about the launch of a research conducted on situations in Ghana’s prisons last year.

The NGO’s report would be launched in Accra today Wednesday, April 25.

Mr Welsh said during the research, the AI visited 10 prisons in Ghana, including four female prisons, and it was revealed that the prisons were over–crowded, especially the small prisons with four or five prisoners sleeping in a cell.

“We also found out that remand prisoners were high on the list and the Central Prisons in Kumasi had the largest population of prisoners,” he said.

Mr Welsh said during the period, government daily feeding subsidy was 60 pesewas but they were happy that that amount had been tripled and commended the Government for  the effort.

The research, he said, revealed that although the country’s prisons had vocational training facilities, most of the machines were obsolete and urged Government to give more tools to the prisons for the facilities to function well.

Mr Welsh said: “We believe that it would be better for prisoners to return with skills that would make them acceptable into the society rather than allowing them to come back worse than before.”

He said the AI conducted similar research around the world in different countries, and presented the reports to the individual countries for action, and hoped that their concerns would be addressed.

Mr Okudzeto Ablakwa, commended AI for the exercise, and pledged Government’s continuous commitment decongesting the country’s prison.

He said on assumption of office in 2009, the Government promised transparent and accountable government, and opened up to credible institutions like the AI to ensure that peoples’ rights were not abused.

Mr Ablakwa emphasised government’s commitment to good governance, transparency and accountability.

He announced that plans were underway to build more prisons to decongest Ghana’s prisons.

Mr Ablakwa said the Attorney General’s Department and the Judicial Service were charged to investigate why remand prisoners ended up spending more time in the prisons and find a solution to the problem.

He hoped that the AG’s Department and the Judicial Service would expedite action on addressing the challenges.

Mr Ablakwa said for the first time in Ghana’s history, government was sourcing funds to enable the Electoral Commission include prisoners in the country’s elections.

He asked Ghanaians to welcome efforts like that of AI to find solution to human rights problems.

“We all in one way or the other visit people we know in our prisons before and we are all aware of the challenges prevailing there,”  Mr Ablakwa said,  and urged the media to discuss the report from different angles to sustain the debate.

He said: “It is only sustaining the debate that we would find solution to the challenges”.

Mr Ablakwa emphasised that it was important to make the country’s prisons comfortable, and to make the facilities reform centres to make prisoners relevant to society after serving their prison terms.

Mr Welsh was accompanied by Mr Lawrence Amesu, Director,  Amnesty International, Ghana.

Source: GNA

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