The rate of congestion in Ghana's prisons worsened last year due to the increasing prison population, according to the 2008 annual report of the Ghana Prisons Service (GPS).
The cumulative prison population for 2008 was 5,170,840 as against the 2007 figure of 4,867,366, representing an increase of 5.9 per cent with an average daily lock-up of 14,128.
The report cited a high incidence of re-offending among ex-convicts as a contributory factor to the increasing prisoner population. Of the 9,377 convicted prisoners admitted in 2008, a total of 1,806 of them, representing 19.3 per cent, had been previously convicted.
It said 8,315 or 88.7 per Gent of convicts admitted during the year aged between 18 and 45.
The youthful nature of the prison population is highlighted in the report in relation to overcrowding with an emphasis on the need to expand facilities for more effective education and training of the inmates to make them productive.
According to the report, the most frequent offence committed by prisoners in 2008 was stealing, with an increase from 3,155 in 2007 to 4,263 in 2008.
The region with the highest occurrence of stealing offences in 2008 continued to be the Ashanti Region, with 1,518 convictions. The Eastern Region was second with 967 cases, followed by Western Region, 579; Central Region, 439; Brong Ahafo, 276; Volta, 191; Upper West, 99; Upper East, 90;--Northern, 79 and Greater Accra with 25.
The number of prisoners held for abetment of crime more than doubled from 56 in 2007 to 119 in 2008. In both 2007 and 2008, the second most frequent offence committed was robbery but 2008 saw a decrease in cases from 792 in 2007 to 508.
A total of 131 people were convicted for murder and 11 imprisoned for manslaughter. Rape convicts numbered 79 with defilement recording 445 convicts.
Some 462 people were sentenced for possession of narcotic drugs, with 25 jailed for possessing firearms. A total of 174 people were jailed for driving offences.
Those convicted for assault/indecent assault numbered 287, causing damage/causing harm, 406; and threatening 142.
Fraud cases totalled 339 while conspiracy recorded 412 convicts. There was also a significant decrease in unlawful entry from 624 in 2007 to 330 in 2008.
Sixteen prisoners who escaped from custody were re-arrested and sentenced, while 45 people who could not settle their debts were also jailed and 42 persons convicted for dishonestly receiving.
According to the report; only one person was convicted in the Upper West Region for contempt of court, while nobody was convicted for child stealing.
Other offences were 1,600.
Given the youthful age (18-45) of the majority of prisoners, the report called for "a greater, level of commitment to the effective reintegration of ex-convicts into society", and indicated that projects had been "hampered by lack of funding".
The Director-General of Prisons, William Kwadwo Asiedu, was quoted as mentioning "dwindling budgetary allocation; increasing prison population, lack of decent anti adequate staff accommodation and the passiveness of society to the welfare of prisoners and its resentment towards ex-convicts" as the key challenges confronting the Prisons Service.