Private Legal Practitioner, Martin Kpebu, has called for reforms in the country’s sentencing regime.
He said when it comes to sentencing, many offenses come with very heavy penalties, which makes the inmates stay in prison for so long.
According to Mr. Kpebu, the current sentencing regime, which subjects prisoners to long term in jail, has not been effective in reforming prisoners, since most of them return as hardened criminals after staying there for many years.
Mr. Kpebu said this as part of discussion on Joy FM’s Super Morning Show on Wednesday. The show discussed the generally deplorable conditions in Ghana’s prisons and the fact that each prisoner receives GHC1.80 as feeding grant per day.
He cited for instance that “an offence like robbery, under the law [i.e going to steal but using force in the process], is such that the minimum sentence for a person convicted of this crime is 15 years [once there is a weapon involved] and minimum 10 years without a weapon. Rape on the other hand also comes with a jail term of not less than seven years.”
Juxtaposing this with other jurisdictions, he emphasised that this would keep an accused in prison longer than expected. He posits that this deterrent approach hasn’t been effective since the harsh prison conditions harden criminals who stay there for long instead of reforming them.
He, thus, stressed the need for reviewing the sentencing regime and improving prison conditions for inmates so that “they will come out as better persons.”
“We need to look at our sentencing regime. We need a robust sentencing code/guideline. Some of them have lived there for so long and become hardened criminals because of the prison conditions. That’s the number one danger when you keep the accused persons or convicts there for so long,” he stressed.
“The harsh prison conditions harden convicts and the danger with this is that, there will be more crimes. People come out of prison as hardened criminals, they are sent back to prison and it becomes a vicious cycle. But much as we know that these guys can be very dangerous to society, we can also make a concerted effort to reform them,” he added.