By Erica Apeatua Addo, GNA
Tarkwa (W/R), February 27, GNA - One remand prisoner at the Tarkwa local prison in the Western Region has been set free under the Justice For All Programme (JFAP), instituted to decongest prisons across the country.
Sampson Apam, who was on trial at a Tarkwa Circuit court for alleged rape has been on remand for 6 months 18 days.
Apam, who could not hide his joy when he was discharged thanked God, the court and the lawyers who defended him free of charge.
Two specialized court, were set up at the Tarkwa local prison yard and Mr Justice Clemence Honyenuga, Chairman of the Remand Review Taskforce and a Justice of the Court of Appeal together with Madame Hannah Taylor, a Justice of the High court presided over the cases of twenty four remand prisoners.
One person on remand was convicted and imprisoned for one month, fourteen others were granted bail and eight other applications for bail were refused.
Some of the charges which came before the courts included murder, manslaughter, stealing, robbery and defilement.
The Tarkwa local prison is the first to benefit from the JFAP for 2018 and the team is expected to sit sixteen times this year and would cover all major prisons in the country.
Addressing the media after witnessing a trial, Mr Honyenuga explained that more steps were being taken to have non-custodian sentences to become part of the laws in the country’s legal system.
He said as of January this year, total remand prisoners population in the country was 13 per cent of the total prison population as compared to 22 per cent in 2007, adding that this programme has done its best.
Mr Honyenuga said the JFAP has attained international recognition and that last year at the United Nations Human Rights Council, Ghana was praised so much for this particular programme.
He said in December last year when they sat in Koforidua Central Prisons, Kenya’s Director of Public Prosecutions and others from the United States Agency for International Development came to study the programme and as a result some of the officials had to travel to Kenya to assist them.
Mr Honyenuga said "Kenya has started the same programme to decongest their prisons so the justice for all is making progress and others are learning from them in Ghana".
The State Attorney in charge of Western Region, Madame Patience Klinogo on her part said because of the JFAP the number of remand prisoners had reduced.
She said with the few applications that were dismissed, most of the cases had been completed and the remand prisoners were either waiting to be sentenced, open their defence or call witnesses.
Madame Klinogo said the court saw there was no need to grant the applicants bail because their trial had not been delayed unreasonably.
The Assistant Director of Prisons, Mr Kwaku Ababio Ali thanked the organizers for extending the programme to the Tarkwa local prison.
The remand prisoners were represented by two lawyers, Mr Owusu Takyi and Mr. Mubashri Mubashir Tamimu Dari.
A total of 320 inmates are in the Tarkwa local prison, out of which 228 have been convicted and 92 are on remand.
The JFAP was instituted in 2007 to alleviate prison overcrowding by setting up special in-prison courts to adjudicate remand prisoner cases throughout the country with joint efforts of the Judicial Service, Office of the Attorney General, Ghana Police and Prisons Service and Civil Society group.
In 2007 the Prisons Service annual report stated that 13,335 prisoners representing 30.6 per cent were held in prisons designed to hold approximately one-third of the number.
The Ghana Prisons Service statistics also indicated that the total prison population as of February 22, 2016, was 14,534, out of which 2,464 were remand prisoners, represented 18.2 per cent of the total prison population in Ghana.
As of December 26, 2017, the total remand population has reduced to 12 per cent.