It was quite an emotional scene when a 17-year-old female prisoner of Kumasi Central Prisons yesterday narrated how she was sentenced to 18 months imprisonment for allegedly stealing GH¢30.00.
The girl, (name withheld) a native of Bolgatanga who was in tears told the Minister of Justice and Attorney General, Joe Ghartey, that when she came from her hometown, she lived with a woman for whom she worked by selling some of the items the woman traded in.
She said on one of such errands she sold goods worth GH¢40 but when she took the money home, her mistress said the proceeds should have been GH¢70 and accused her of pocketing the difference.
She was subsequently handed over to the police who in taking her statement, changed her age which she gave as 17 years, to 19.
She was then arraigned before the court and jailed 18 months without the court even taking her plea.
Touched by the girl’s story, the justice minister paid the GH¢30 to the Ashanti Regional State Attorney, William Pobi, to be given to the girl’s former mistress.
The Minister, then asked the State Attorney to ensure that the girl, who has already served three months out of the 18-month jail term, is released.
He noted that she is a first offender and a minor.
Mr Ghartey, accompanied by the Deputy Commissioner of the Commission on Human Rights and Administrative Justice (CHRAJ), Richard Quayson and some officials from the Attorney-General’s Department, visited the Kumasi Central Prisons on Tuesday as part of the Justice For All programme. The programme which took off in September last year is to provide remand prisoners an opportunity to interact with staff of the Attorney-General’s Department and some private lawyers for legal advice and determination of their cases.
Their cases will be heard in the prison and those who are found innocent will be released while those found guilty would be sentenced taking into consideration, the number of years already spent in remand.
At the male ward, it came out that some of the inmates had been there for 11 years and had not been taken to court.
Addressing the inmates at both the male and female wards, Mr Ghartey assured them of the government’s commitment to ensuring the fundamental human rights of all citizens.
He said it was wrong to have prisoners on remand without trial and said the Justice For A11 programme aims at addressing such issues and assured that there would be no more delayed justice.
The Minister said the system of arrest down up to prosecution would be reviewed with the aim of curbing overcrowding in the prisons.
He told them that it was realised that most of the inmates could not afford lawyers hence the programme Justice for all and hoped they would open up to the team of lawyers and prosecutors that would be interacting with them.
As part of the programme, a standing committee, comprising personnel from the Ghana Journalists Association, Legal Aid, CHRAJ, the Ghana Bar Association and the Attorney-General’s Department, will be formed to monitor the programme.
The Ashanti Regional Commander of Prisons, Ambrose Imoro Salifu, earlier said he was worried about the refusal of the police to take remand prisoners to hospital.
Mr Salifu said the current total prisons in Ashanti region was 2,676 as against 438 subordinate officers and 36 superior officers.
The central prison alone has 1,817 inmates out of which 614 are on remands and are awaiting trials.
He said the central prison, built in 1906, by the colonial administration was to cater for 800 inmates.
Mr Salifu pointed out that at the remand block, the inmates sleep in turns as a result of overcrowding which he attributed to delay in their trials by the courts.