The Executive Director of Crime Check Foundation (CCF), Ibrahim Oppong Kwarteng, has entreated the Commissioner on Human Rights and Administrative Justice(CHRAJ), Joseph Whittal to consider making periodic visits to the prisons to ascertain the conditions of inmates.
Mr. Kwarteng who is also the Ambassador Extraordinaire of Ghana prisons made the appeal on the back of reports on congested prison cells and abuses of the fundamental human rights of prisoners in the country.
Mr. Kwarteng held that oftentimes security institutions hide under the guise of security to refuse media access into their facility and as a result, the violations fall on the blindside of the media and institutions like CHRAJ.
He said this during a courtesy call on Mr. Whittal to solicit the Commission’s support on its campaign to decriminalize poverty dubbed ‘Decriminalizing Vagrancy Laws and Advocacy’ (DVLA) project.
The Prisons reform advocate indicated that the visit would afford CHRAJ to witness at first hand the living conditions of inmates and keep the Ghana Prisons Service and other Criminal Justice Institutions on their toes. He said it will also help to minimize violations of inmates rights.
“I would like to appeal to the Commission to consider making unannounced visits to the prison to witness at first hand the conditions of inmates. My position as the prisons ambassador has offered me a rare opportunity to visit prisons and interact with inmates. I was at the Kumasi remand block recently and I must say the place is choked. Inmates are kept in there for various reasons, some because of missing dockets, prosecutors been transferred and so many other reasons,” He said.
Mr. Kwarteng used the opportunity to urge government to appoint an Inspector General of Prisons whose mandate would be inspecting various prison establishments as it done in other jurisdictions. “I know in some advanced countries where they have the best prison facilities like the UK, there is an Inspector General of Prisons. I want to entreat government to consider appointing an Inspector General of Prisons who would inspect the prisons and make sure that the right thing is done.” He appealed.
CHRAJ boss, Mr. Whittal however, indicated that his office has started processes with an enactment of a law, which will allow them to visit the prisons and to interact with inmates. This, he said will help check abuses and violations of the fundamental human rights of inmates.
“The Attorney General has finalized the bill and has gotten us to go over and then from here it will go to cabinet and then to Parliament. It incudes the right of the Commission to go into prison facilities with the media, experts to interview inmates privately. We are in the tight direction and all we can do now is to expedite actions on these series of ilss that mean a lot to the poor. If we have a bloated remand system in Ghana, we will be pretending if we think we are offering justice.” He said.
As part of the implementation of the DVLA, CCF has sensitized more than One Thousand Two Hundred vagrants and Assembly officials on local bye-laws of Metropolitan, Municipal and District Assemblies (MMDAs).
The Open Society Initiative for West Africa (OSIWA), established in 2000, is a grant-making and advocacy organization focused on equality, justice, democratic governance, human rights, and knowledge generation. It is part of the global network of Open Society Foundations spread across 37 countries around the world. He said the Assemblies outrageously fine these vagrants for committing petty offences.
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By: Rudolph Nandi