Ex-convict calls for review of criminal code; blames society for poor prison conditions

An ex-convict, Akwesi Frimpong Jnr, wants an unconditional exclusion of custodian sentences for all forms of misdemeanor in Ghana.
In his estimation, no amount of capital investment in prisons would enable the facilities take care of the high numbers of inmates.
He called for a review of Act 29 of the Criminal Code to prevent judges from throwing people in jail for stealing yam or cassava.
The inhumane conditions in the country’s prisons is now a national issue.
The pictures of people sleeping on each other in prisons and poor quality food they eat as well as the lack of health attention are very common.
Yet, measures to address these worrying situations have remained a lip service, at least for now.
Akwesi Frimpong Junior was incarcerated for 14 years in hard labour. His offence was defrauding by false pretences.
Akwesi served only 5 out of the 14 years including a year on remand, and got his freedom back on an appeal.
But before his release he had served his sentence in six different prisons across the country.
He said the experiences and conditions in each of these prisons were horrific.
Akwesi Frimpong Junior says he shared rooms meant for about 10 persons with over 80 people with various health conditions.
Some of these rooms also serve as both toilet and bath.
The least said about the food the better, he said.
Inmates of the country’s prisons have to eat food that are not even fit for dogs in some homes.
But Akwesi does not blame the prison officers or the governments but rather society.
He insisted that the type of judicial system in the country must be blamed for the congestion and all other unacceptable conditions in the prisons.
Akwesi Frimpong Junior argued that the prisons can only be free and safe for reformation only if it is preserved for persons who have committed felonious crimes and high treason and not for people who steal a tuber of yam or cassava.
The ex-convict again insisted that imposing communal sentencing on misdemeanor cases will also help reduce some environmental challenges in the various communities rather than the offenders being kept in the prisons at the expense of the state, which is struggling to meet its subvention needs for the various agencies.
He commended the effort of the Prison Council to improve conditions in the prisons but insisted a push for the elimination of custodian sentences from the judicial system and the law books should be paramount.
Kwesi thinks unless that is done no amount of improvement in infrastructural and logistical development would be enough to make the prisons serve the correctional values.
By Peter Quao Adattor|TV3||Ghana

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