Prison inmates at the Ankaful Maximum Prisons in the Central Region have appealed to Government to implement the non-custodial sentencing policy in the country.
This they believed, would help decongest the various prisons across the country and also improve prison conditions to meet international standards.
According to them, reformation and rehabilitation of the offender must be the main focus of the Bill put forward by the Ghana Prison Service and not the punitive measures meted out to law offenders.
A non–custodial sentencing is a sentence by a court of law, which does not involve serving time in prison, but it may include a fine, a restriction, prohibition or community service orders.
Mr. Lord Fedelix, spokesperson for the inmates at the Ankaful Maximum Prisons made the appeal, on behalf of his colleagues, when the Minister of Gender, Children and Social Protection Nana Oye Lithur, launched a health insurance scheme for prison inmates at the Ankaful Maximum Prison at the weekend.
The event, which formed part of a national exercise to register all prison inmates in the country, under the National Health Insurance Scheme (NHIS), was intended to offer prisoners financial protection against the cost of basic healthcare.
More than 1,500 inmates at the Ankaful prison have enrolled onto the NHIS to enable them to have access to health care.
He explained that the current retributive justice often did not make it possible for the ex-convicts to go back to normal life after leaving the prisons to contribute to the development of the country.
“Instead of depriving those who commit less dangerous offences of their freedom by serving prison terms, they could be given duties in the society to promote productivity”. He stated
The Minister of Gender, Children and Social Protection, in response to the appeal by the prisoners, said the issue of non-custodial sentencing was on the drawing board of the Government and would soon become operational in the justice system.
She stressed that government did not intend to churn out prisoners who are worse off when they leave the prisons, hence the implementation of the “Effiase project” aimed at improving prison conditions and transforming the prisons into reformation centres.
She said the initiative to register prisoners unto the NHIS formed part of the social protection mandate of the government to address the health needs of the vulnerable in the society.
Mrs. Lithur said the Ministry, in collaboration with the NHIA have been able to register 6,000 prison inmates unto the NHIS across the country since it began the project six months ago, and that, government would continue to ensure that prisoners have efficient, effective and quick access to health care.
“By early next year, the clinic at the Ankaful Maximum Prison would be upgraded and accredited to accept NHIS cards to offer free healthcare to the inmates”, she said. GNA