28.09.2004 General News

Commission orders 750 remand prisoners to be taken to court immediately

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Accra, Sept. 28, GNA - The Commission on Human Rights and Administrative Justice (CHRAJ) on Wednesday asked the Attorney General and the Minister of Justice to steps to ensure that the cases of about 750 remand prisoners at the James Fort Prison were dealt with expeditiously.

Ms Anna Bossman, Acting Commissioner of CHRAJ, who was launching the Commission's annual inspection of prisons and police cells at the James Fort Prison in Accra said some of the inmates had been detained for over six to seven years without a single court appearance and some were mentally ill.

She said the dealing with the cases was to ensure that police dockets for such persons were prepared for immediate court hearing to save them from further torture.

The CHRAJ had been engaged in an annual nation-wide prisons and police cells inspection to ensure that the rights and dignities of the inmates were upheld.

Ms Bossman said conditions of the prisons and detention facilities still remained low despite recent debates on such issues. The Commission believes that the detention or conviction of persons who had violated the law or other people's rights does not take away their fundamental human rights, but rather they are put away from society for reformation and rehabilitation.

Ms Bossman said, "Prisons are supposed to be a place for reformation and rehabilitation so that such persons would become better than they were before."

She stated that CHRAJ has since 1995 pursued the role of protecting and defending the rights of all citizens and to ensure that the rights of the outcastes and vulnerable were safeguarded.

The bitterness that people had against criminals often supersedes the fact that when convicts are treated harshly they become more hardened who would come out of jail carrying vengeance in their hearts. "When prisoners and suspects are exposed to harsh conditions, hunger, overcrowding, fear, idleness and sometimes violence, they become angrier and more vengeful than they were first imprisoned and are likely to return to crime on their release from prison," she said.

Ms Bossman called on prison authorities and the police to ensure the separation of juvenile and suspects with mental problems and further suggested that prison sentences for pregnant women be withheld till their babies were born.

Ms Bossman later in the day visited the Osu Police Station where a nine-year-old boy had been in detention for the past one week for an alleged stealing.

She gave the assurance the issue of the boy would further be investigated by the Commissions and to ensure that the boy was sent to a social welfare centre.

She said the conditions of the police cells were not different from that of the prison cells and appealed to philanthropists to support the police service to provide better services to inmates. The Commissioner recommended that strategies be put in place to look at how best to improve upon the nation's prisons and detention facilities and to decongest them.

The Deputy Superintendent of Police, Mr Samuel Obeng-Kyere, District Commander at the station appealed for more support from the public as well as corporate bodie with financial support and food supplies to enable them to take good care of inmates.

He said, "Sometimes we have to feed the inmates from our own pockets which makes us feel very uncomfortable."

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