The Chief Justice, Justice Sophia Akuffo, has directed that the Justice For All Programme (JFAP) be conducted quarterly to help decongest the overcrowded prisons in the country.
“Every quarter, every region must have a Justice for All Programme,” she said, explaining that it was part of efforts to decentralise the programme.
The Chief Justice was speaking at the Ho Central Prison when she led a delegation of foreign diplomats, made up of representatives of United Nations (UN) organisations and some female envoys, including the United States Ambassador, Mrs Stephanie Sanders Sullivan, to the prison to assess the JFAP there.
The quarterly exercise, she said, would help clean the prisons of persons who had been on remand for long periods, while waiting for other procedural laws that would provide different ways of managing criminal cases in the country.
“By January next year, the JFAP will be decentralised to every region to make sure the number of people remanded in prison without prosecution is reduced,” Ms Akuffo said.
She said in places where the courts were attached to the prisons, there would be a full-time prison court that would ensure the daily hearing of cases involving prison inmates.
The Chief Justice said she had directed Courts Foundation to expedite the preparation of the alternative sentencing bail, which had the backing of the Ghana Prisons Service and the Ministry of the Interior.
“It’s just a question of getting the normative framework in place and then I hope it will be enacted,” she said.
She disclosed that 27 remand cases were handled under the JFAP in the Ho Prison, with two persons being discharged unconditionally, two convicted and bonded, 14 granted bail, eight applications refused and one case struck out.
She said the Bar and the Judiciary were considering upgrading and reconfiguring para-legal services to improve access to legal advice for people.
I bow out
Announcing her retirement next month, Justice Akuffo said those were some of the legacies to improve justice delivery in the country.
The Chief Justice and the delegation observed part of the proceedings of a two-day in-prison special court session involving 26 remand prisoners.
The cases were presided over by a Court of Appeal judge, Justice Clemence Honyenuga, and the Supervising High Court judge, Justice Eric Baah.
A Deputy Director-General of Prisons and Volta Regional Prisons Commander, Mr Andrews Dzokoto, said the JFAP would help decongest the already crowded Ho Prison, which was designed for 150 prisoners but currently accommodated 501, out of whom 89 were on remand.
He called for the feeding budget of the prisons to be increased, as the GH¢1.8 per inmate per day was insufficient.
He also appealed for operational vehicles.
The Danish Ambassador to Ghana, Ms Tove Degnbol, commended the Chief Justice for her keen interest in the JFAP.
“You managed to get the programme on the Finance Bill when Danish support to the JFAP ended in December 2018,” she said.