The Ghana Prison Service administration says President Akufo-Addo did not grant amnesty to 808 convict prisoners to decongest the prisons because of the outbreak of the coronavirus (Covid-19) pandemic in Ghana.
The President based upon the recommendation of the Prisons Service Council and in consultation with the Council of State and in accordance with Article 72(1) of the Constitution pardoned the prisoners last week.
The categories of convicts affected are; first offenders, 783, seriously ill, 11, inmates on death row to be commuted to life imprisonment, 7, inmates serving life sentences to have commuted to 20 years definite term, 4, and very old prisoners (70 years and above), 3.
A statement dated Thursday, March 26, 2020, signed by Director-General of Prisons, Patrick Darko Missah, released in Accra, said the first offenders totaling 783 who have served half of their sentences, the eleven seriously ill prisoners, and the three aged (very old) prisoners are to be released outright.
“However, the seven prisoners on death row would have their sentences commuted to life imprisonment, while four prisoners serving a life sentence will be commuted to twenty years definite term”, the statement in part further read.
The move by the President follows calls by the Minority Caucus to the President, to immediately free some prisoners from the country’s prisons.
In the view of the Minority, such an exercise if the executive will complement efforts being pursued by the government to prevent the spread of the coronavirus (COVID-19) in the West African nation.
But the Public Relations Officer of the Ghana Prison Service, Superintendent Courage Atsem told Kasapa FM‘s Akwasi Nsiah that the process to release the prisoners started late 2019 at a time there was no outbreak of coronavirus in the country.
“The process to grant these prisoners pardon commenced the latter part of 2019 before the outbreak of coronavirus in Ghana. So I wouldn’t say that the coronavirus outbreak in Ghana is the basis for this amnesty. It has coincided with it and it’s a welcome development for us.”
He added that the Ghana Prison Service has put in place adequate measures in the prison to prevent both the Prison officers and prisoners from contracting the coronavirus disease.
According to him, should any prisoner contract the coronavirus, it will be disastrous due to the overcrowding situation in Ghana’s prisons, hence their focus is the prevention of the disease.