The “Justice for All Programme,” has discharged unconditionally seven remand prisoners at the Ankaful Annex Prison for various offences.
The programme also convicted six accused persons, granted bail to fourteen and refused bail applications of fifteen others.
The exercise, an initiative of the Judiciary, with support from the Office of the Attorney-General, the Ghana Prisons Service and the Ghana Bar Association, was aimed at decongesting the prisons of remanded prisoners.
Justice Clemence Honyenuga, of the Court of Appeal, who took part in the exercise, said it was amazing that about 90 percent of the prisoners were convicted of usage or possession of Indian hemp.
“Most of them were not aware that just possessing the narcotic was an offence; so if the Narcotics Control Board intensifies their education on drugs to the general public, it can reduce the acts”, he said.
He expressed the hope that institutions, such as the forensic laboratories, would be decentralized so that their work would be easier and faster, to enable the courts to receive reports on time to quicken trials.
Justice Honyenuga said the Judicial Service has received criticism from the United Nations Council for Human Rights over the congestion in the various prisons, putting the lives of the prisoners in danger, hence the programme.
“We want to inform Ghanaians that the “Justice for All Programme” is a very laudable idea, which is dealing with remand prisoners who deserve to be attended too,” he added.
Justice Constant K. Hometowu, a High Court judge, said a workshop has been organized for Judges and Magistrates on how to deal with remand prisoners and it had really made an impact in their operations, adding that, they are now handing down lower sentences than they used to do.
Mr Francis-Xavier Sosu, a Human Rights Lawyer, who volunteered as a counsel for the accused persons, described as unfortunate, the circumstances which led to some of the accused persons being remanded.
He said the programme provides an opportunity for the bail conditions of the remand prisoners to be reviewed and also allows those who deserve to be released the chance to go back home.
Mr Jonathan Osei-Owusu, Chief Executive Officer of POS Foundation, an NGO for human right advocacy, said a survey conducted by the foundation revealed that most prisoners in the country have skin diseases, malaria and bodily pains.
“That is why we sought the permission of the Judiciary to screen the prisoners and provide some medication,” he said.
Mr Osei-Owusu said almost 200 prisoners were screened and the common diseases identified were malaria and hernia.