The general modern conceptual approach of criminologist to crime and disorder has been that, to those persons who fall foul of societal laws or whose anti social behaviour conflicts with the general values and expectations of their communities should inevitably be punished. Several reasons have been adduced as purposes for this approach to criminal behaviour.
These encompass: REHABILITATION, RE-INTEGRATION / RESETTLEMENT, REPARATION, PUBLIC PROTECTION AND DETERRENCE. Indeed the modern conceptual theoretical approach to punishment places much more emphasis on the rehabilitative ethos of punishment rather than the hitherto punitive approach to punishment.
The former, being a paradigm that provides a unique framework within which offenders can be confronted and challenged positively, with their anti social behaviour and the opportunity explored to address their criminogenic needs. Research demonstrates clearly that this has become a much more realistic and pragmatic reflection of an evidence-based, effective and efficient mechanism for responding to criminality than the retributive philosophy or the 'punishment fits the crime' ethos of punishment.
To date, Ghana's approach or response to crime and disorder is determined by a criminal procedure code which has fines and custody as the only sentencing options available to our courts. It is this naive and myopic feature of our sentencing framework that has been responsible for the cancer of prison overcrowding and its other dehumanising effects in this country. You may ask-Why can't our prisons be congested if minor offences such as a theft of a goat or a bunch of plantain, which are recovered, attracts a five years custodial sentence?
Such sentencing approach is what will incur the professional displeasure and disappointment of the ladyship the chief justice to describe sentencing as inconsiderate and unreasonable, although to many others the practice is despicably outrageous, insensitive and lacks the commonsense approach to justice delivery. On the flip side though, it is possible that these dangerous and inhumane situations may not arise were the courts empowered with alternatives to custodial sentencing mechanism.
It is necessary to remind readers here that our criminal justice delivery system is informed and based on that of our colonial masters, the British criminal justice system. Paradoxically they have on numerous occasions reformed their penal policy and therefore their criminal justice legislations in making those provisions for alternatives to custodial sentencing with regards to minor offences. Undoubtedly, this approach reflects the demands of modern criminology, democratic values, the exigencies of the needs of their citizenry and their fundamental human rights as imprisonment has become a human rights issue.
However in Ghana, we have rather ridiculously remained static and held to the rather archaic, obsolete and a seemingly out of touch criminal procedure code, which at best is no longer fit for purpose , given reparative philosophy now underlines the concept of punishment. Thus the British jurisdiction has come to value, appreciate and acknowledge the outlook and the redefinition of punishment as to provide a framework for rehabilitation, reparation, reintegration, resettlement of the offender back into communality life as a law abiding citizen ready to contribute to national development.
This Paper, with its column the 'NEW AGENDA,' has singularly been at the forefront of the advocacy for this penal reform agenda for some time now without any collaborative support from even other civil society organisations, let alone the so called stakeholder institutions to date. Our advocacy is for a reform agenda which should and must provide the working framework that responds to the UN Standards Minimum Rules of Non -Custodial Sentencing for Minor Offences ( Tokyo, 1999 ), the UN Standards Minimum Rules for the Treatment of Prisoners and Pre-Trial Detention, the Ouagadougou Declaration and Plan of Action on Accelerating Prisons and the Penal Reforms in Africa and the Penal Reform International's global penal reform agenda.
A characteristic feature of the non-custodial sentence approach to crime and disorder is the development of probationary practice or what has come to be known in modern times as the offender management and rehabilitation practice or service delivery, one which combines punishment and rehabilitative ethos or philosophy as in line with modern criminological understanding of punishment.
No doubt the repository of our source of penal policy the British criminal justice delivery system has moved from its national probation service framework to the modern and current trend of a national offender management service-(NOMS) in responding appropriately to the challenges crime and disorder poses to its body politics. Research demonstrates that the British practice is a true reflection of, evidence -based, effective and best practice response to the risk(s) offenders pose to public safety.
It is an approach that has a developed alternative to custodial sentencing framework with a variety of community sentencing options beyond fines and custody which empowers offenders to take responsibilities for their offending behaviour and acknowledge the harm done to their victims and the public in general. Significantly, its national offender management service which together with partner agencies, provide numerous services in order to reduce re-offending, manage risk, address offending-related needs and ensure the needs of both victims and the public are addressed.
The role of the offender manager and rehabilitation practitioner is to ensure that offenders comply with the sentence of the court, usually under the auspices of a supervision requirement. Additionally, offender management can also take place as part of community reparation, community service or community pay-back initiatives.
The offender manager and rehabilitation practitioner also has as a duty to ensure that the right service is delivered to the right offender at the right time. ASSESSMENT: the first task of an offender manager and rehabilitation practitioner is to undertake an assessment of the offender. This will normally include offence analysis, offending -related needs and risk.
Most offenders will be assessed using OASys ( the Offender Assessment System ) which cover all these issues. Once an assessment has been completed the offender manager and rehabilitation practitioner will be able to make a proposal to the court via a pre-sentence report (PSR). The PSR , which is a report for advising the court will outline the most suitable intervention for an individual offender based on the seriousness of the offence committed, the impact on the victims, the risk posed and the needs identified such as anger mismanagement ,substance dependency, peer pressure, trade skills, employment, housing or thinking and behaviour. SENTENCE PLANNING: Following the imposition of a sentence by the court, the offender manager is now mandated to undertake offence-focused supervision work with the offender, by planning the implementation of the sentence.
An OASys mechanism is again deployed to prioritise the issues identified following the assessment and ensure that the various components of the sentence are delivered in the right order. Offenders are also expected to asses themselves, given their own insight is vital to ensure successful sentence planning. Sentence plans are always subject to regular reviews so as to ensure that all the interventions are being delivered and that any new needs or risk issues are adequately addressed.
EFFECTIVE SUPERVISION: Once the court order is imposed, the offender is obligated by national standards that regulate the court order to meet at least once weekly with the offender manager and rehabilitation practitioner in the first -four months (16 weeks) for direct one-to-one supervision sessions. At these sessions, offenders will be expected to complete work related to their offending behaviour. It will also be the expectations of the court order for the offender to engage in victim focussed intervention work, with the view to developing and improving their understanding of how their offending behaviour impacts on the victim and other people and sometimes on their own friends and families.
Supervision sessions also provide the opportunity for the offender to raise those other issues that may be of importance to them such as employment, relationships, money, drugs and alcohol challenges. The Offender manager and rehabilitation practitioner has a further responsibility of engaging the offender in a manner as to keep the offender motivated well enough to undertake all the tasks identified and agreed as vital for reducing their risk of re-offending and any risk of significant harm. Supervision sessions are equally used to monitor progress of the offender and adequately address issues as they may arise.
PARTNERSHIP WORKING : Statutorily, the offender manager and rehabilitation practitioner is obligated to work with a range of other agencies in ensuring that the risk and offending -related issues are adequately addressed. They have the task of liaising with drugs and alcohol agencies, employment, housing, education, community project providers and other service providers as set out in the sentence plan.
Offender manager and rehabilitation practitioners will be required to share relevant information with other appropriate agencies such as with the police, health and social services in other to protect others who may be vulnerable. Indeed robust partnership working is a critical index to the successful management of offenders on court orders in the community. ENFORCEMENT OF THE ORDER: The offender manager and rehabilitation practitioner has the responsibility for ensuring that the offender complies with all aspects of their sentence as set out by the sentencing court.
In the event of failure to comply with any aspect of the order, their case is swiftly returned to court for breach of the order by the offender manager and rehabilitation practitioner as the supervisor of the court order. It is this mechanism that characterizes the criminal justice delivery systems of those other jurisdictions that have faith in community sentencing as a credible and a robust strategic response to crime and disorder in the 21st century. Ghana cannot afford to be left behind this strategy and action. The time to act is now.
• The Writer Who Is A Social Care And Offender Management And Rehabilitation Consultant Is A Penal Reform Advocate And The Operations Director Of OMRO. For Futher Details Contact Www. [email protected] / 0248 416 287