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11.11.2005 Crime & Punishment

Supreme Court Judge restates need for alternative penal system

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Ho, Nov.10, GNA - Mr Justice Modibo Ocran, Justice of the Supreme Court on Thursday underscored the need to re-ignite interest in non-retributive theories of punishment such as deterrence, therapy and rehabilitation.

He said there was also the need to take a greater interest in non-custodial sentencing policy including probation, house arrest and compensation to victims when appropriate.

Justice Ocran said this at the inauguration of the Volta Regional Branch of Ghana Penal and Justice System Observation (GHAPEJUSO), a rights activist organization at Ho.

He said for far too long, the country had fashioned its penal system upon heavily flawed theories of punishment and that it could hardly deny that thoughts of retribution still play a large part in its general assumptions and perspectives on the nature and gravity of sentences for criminal conduct.

"In its unrefined form, the lex talionis demands an eye for an eye. But the notion that people should be treated, as they deserve to be treated, can easily transform itself into the celebration of vengeance or a call for blind, unreflective revenge," he said. He said punishments could not be justified simply because they were deserved and that the restoration of moral balance between wrongdoer and the victim was not always served by systems of custodial sentencing. Mr Kofi Dzamesi, Volta Regional Minister, in a speech read for him, said the problem of the judicial system and the custody of suspects and convicted prisoners was a huge obstacle to the socio-economic development of the country.

He said some people who went to prison came out transformed with Bible in their hands but that was not successful in rehabilitating prisoners.

"The plight of suspects and convicted prisoners in Ghana today, I might say, is nothing good to write home about. The horrible picture that the annual report of the Commission on Human Rights and Administrative Justice (CHRAJ) recently painted about the conditions in our prisons calls for a critical look", he said. Nii Adote Obour II, Sempe Mantse and Acting President of Ga Traditional Council, who is also the life patron for GHAPEJUSO, said the veritable menacing affront to the rule of law was the ever-increasing contingent of people on remand in prisons.

He said the resultant effect on those people, most of whom had remained in prison for many years without trial, was psychological. Nii Adote Obour therefore called for the formulation of standard minimum rules to promote greater community involvement in the management of criminal justice.

Justice George Yanney, a High Court Judge in Ho, later swore in an eleven-member committee under the chairmanship of Mr Edward Adza Kwadzo Glalah, a businessman and a horticulturist.

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