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Expedite passage of Community Service Bill to reduce crowding in prisons – Forum

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The Attorney General’s Department and other relevant institutions involved in the passage of the Community Service Bill have been urged to expedite the process to check crowding in various prisons in the country.

The bill, which is currently at the Attorney General’s Office seeks to provide for community service as an alternative to custodial sentence for convicted offenders in respect of certain offences considered as misdemeanours.

The expectation is that the Bill will encourage non-custodial punishment for minor offences and help reduce the pressure in the prisons when passed into law.

It was in this spirit that participants at a forum in the Bantama Sub-Metro in Kumasi called for urgent steps to pass the Bill.

They contended that the Bill would not only decongest the prisons but also prevent the needless incarceration of certain offenders whose crime did not warrant imprisonment.

The forum formed part of the USAID Justice Sector Support project being implemented in 40 districts in seven regions focusing on the monitoring and sustaining the implementation of Ghana’s Case Tracking System (CTS).

Funded by the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), the CTS also seeks to track cases within the justice sector institutions and for that matter prosecution of criminal cases to enhance justice delivery.

A consortium of three Civil Society Organisations including the Commonwealth Human Rights Initiative (CHRI), Crime Check Foundation (CCF), and Legal Resource Centre (LRC) are implementing the project through local CSOs at the district level.

As part of efforts to improve justice delivery in the country, the project is also advocating the use of Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) mechanisms to resolve petty offences as well as the passage of the Community Service Bill into law.

The forum on the Community Service Bill was therefore organised by the Muslim Family Counselling Services, a local partner of CHRI to whip up public interest to facilitate its passage.

Mr. Tijani Mahmoud, Programmes Manager of Muslim Family Counselling Services said keeping petty offenders in prison was only worsening the poor conditions in the overpopulated facilities, while burdening the taxpayer for their upkeep.

Such people, he said, could rather contribute to community development by undertaking community service as a form of punishment.

He said there were people in prison because they could not pay fines imposed on them by the courts, and thereby adding to the congestion when they could be asked to perform a community service.

Source: GNA

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