21.05.2005 Crime & Punishment

Inmates want presidential pardon for rape, narcotics convicts

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Tamale, May 21, GNA - Inmates at the Tamale Central Prisons on Friday asked for presidential pardon for rape and narcotic convicts, saying, "as citizens of Ghana, we feel we can also enjoy opportunities of that kind."

" The exemption of rape and narcotic convicts from amnesty and government pardon is a great worry to some of us and it makes us feel unfairly treated because this group of prisoners are those who serve higher jail terms."

The inmates raised these concerns when Mr. Papa Owusu Ankomah, Minister of Interior paid a familiarisation visit to the Prisons to interact with them to learn of problems there.

They noted that those of them who had been convicted on rape and narcotic cases had wanted to file an appeal but expressed the regret that such facilities were lacking in the region.

The inmates called on the government to increase their feeding grants and also equip their workshops with tools to enable them learn trade.

At the remand prisoners cells, the Sector Minister was told that some of the inmates had been on remand between the periods of three and seven years without their cases been called for hearing.

Some of the cases that had been called for hearing had experienced about three years adjournments without any justifiable cause. The inmates noted that the delays and frequent adjournments of cases had not only brought untold hardship to them but also helped in creating overcrowding in the cells.

They blamed delays at the courts on investigators and prosecutors who often give the excuse that the dockets had been forwarded to the Attorney General's Office for advice.

"This takes a longer time for the advice or bill of indictment to be ready while the suspect involved is refused bail pending on the readiness of such documents".

The inmates appealed to the government to find alternative ways of punishing offenders who caused minor cases such motor traffic offences, stealing, assault or unlawful entry rather than given them custodial sentences.

Responding to the inmates' concerns, Mr. Ankomah said the government was aware of the problems in the prisons and was working hard to address them.

He said his ministry was collaborating with the Chief Justice to ensure that cases were disposed of to reduce the burden of remands and overcrowding.

Mr. Ankomah advised some of the inmates who have lawyers to contact them to help to speed up with their cases in court.

He told them that prisons is a learning experience to improve in life and urged the inmates to take advantage of the employable skills training they had acquired in the prisons to better themselves after the completion of their sentences.

The sector minister warned them to desist from involving in narcotic business while in prisons, saying: " anyone caught dealing in narcotics would be made to face the full rigour of the law."

Mr. Ankomah later visited the offices of the Ghana Immigration Services, the Ghana National Fire Service, the Ghana Police Service and the Tamale Business Secondary School where he inspected a six-classroom block whose roof was blown off in a windstorm on May 16.

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