The Ghana Prison Service (GPS), in collaboration with the Legal Resource Center (LRC), organized an external stakeholder consultation to solicit input for the Ghana Prison Service Bill 2021.
The two-day consultative meeting, among other things, aims to solicit the views of external stakeholders to consider the provisions of the bill to develop a comprehensive law governing the administration of the prison system in Ghana.
Mr. Isaac K. Egyir, Director General of Prisons, speaking at the opening, said the service was the state institution responsible for the management and maintenance of the prison system and was responsible for to ensure the care and well-being of detainees and to undertake their reform. and rehabilitation where possible.
He stated that the Prisons Act 1972 (NRCD 46) was, since its promulgation 49 years ago, the main applicable law which regulated the administrative and operational activities of the prison service.
However, with the changing facets and needs of society, it was important that it be revised or replenished to meet new emerging trends and serve the interests of society.
He said that in recent times criminal activity has been on the increase with increasing sophistication in the ways in which a crime is committed.
He said that most of the perpetrators arrested, tried and convicted end up in prison, as incarceration is currently the main sanction imposed by the courts in criminal matters, resulting in overcrowding of existing prison facilities.
Mr. Egyir said the Service remains an integral part of the administration of criminal justice and cannot perform its role effectively without an enabling legal framework, which informs and governs the behavior, supervision and training of staff and all contemporary problems of the administration of prisoners.
“We have a vision to comply with international standards and best practices in correctional management. This places an urgent demand on the Service to work towards the adoption of modern standards in correctional administration, including functional needs, assessment of inmate risks and responsibilities, effective classification and appropriate segregation, increased possibilities education and training; and psychological adjustments and interventions to offender behavior. “
The Director-General said the bill sought to incorporate the United Nations Standard Minimum Rules for the Treatment of Prisoners (the Nelson Mandela Rules) to further promote the treatment and human rights of detainees.
It also seeks to introduce some crucial inmate-specific programs, including parole under section 208 (f) of the 1992 Constitution.
“It also recommends the expansion of the Prison Directorate to include parole, health and agriculture; separately. Relevant provisions of mental health and disability laws and provisions for dynamic prison inspection have been incorporated. to improve conditions of detention. “
Mr. Egyir said prison overcrowding remained a major concern of the prison service and local and international human rights bodies.
He said that as part of the interventions needed to address the overcrowding problem was the introduction of parole-based corrections under the bill.
He said the bill has come a long way to get to this point and that they hope to ensure a thorough and final review of the provisions of the bill so that once passed it is complete and proven in its letter and his mind.
“Of course, high-level prison systems not only ensure respect for human rights, but also offer prisoners a better opportunity to change their lives.
Ms. Audra Lykos, director of USAID’s Office of Democracy, Human Rights and Governance, said the bill was important because it would ensure the safety of prisoners, guarantee human rights , as well as the custody and welfare of prisoners.
She said the sector faces challenges that undermine the country’s overall rule of law performance, as one of the main justice sector institutions in Ghana is the Ghana Prison Service.
Most Ghanaian prisons house around 55% more inmates than they were built, and the Service was navigating using its current guiding law.
“With the ever-changing nature of crime and prison management, including the changing capacity needs of prison officers, the bill, when passed, will improve prison management and the protection of the human rights of inmates. .
Ms. Daphine Lariba Nabila, Executive Director, Legal Resources Center and Party Leader, USAID, Justice Sector Support Activity, said that while considerable progress has been made over the past two decades in Ghana’s criminal justice system, it still faced challenges which had led to numerous human rights violations.
She said the bill, once passed, would go a long way in resolving most of these human rights issues, making the Service efficient and providing continued assistance to ensure that the bill , when adopted, would follow international standard practice.