The President of the Republic, Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo has granted amnesty to 808 convict prisoners.
This was 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.
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 life sentence will be commuted to twenty years definite term”, the statement in part further read.
It is the second time President Akufo-Addo has granted amnesty to convict prisoners with the first being in 2017.
The move by the President follows calls by the Minority Caucus to the President, requesting him to exercise his prerogative of mercy powers granted him under the constitution to immediately free some prisoners from the country’s prisons.
In the view of the Minority, such an exercise if executive, will compliment efforts being pursued by government to prevent the spread of the coronavirus (COVID-19) in the West African nation.
The Ranking Member of the Defense and Interior Committee of Parliament, James Agalga, who interacted with some members of the Parliamentary Press Corps on behalf of the Minority Caucus on the sidelines of Parliamentary sitting on Thursday, March 26, 2020, said there could be no such an opportune time for the President to grant some inmates pardon that the situation the country now finds itself in.
“Our suggestion is that this is the right moment for the President to consider the option of exercising the prerogative of mercy function under the constitution to provide for or grant pardon to at least the petty offenders who have been incarcerated within this period so that at least we can decongest our prisons facilities. The last time the President granted pardon to prison inmates in our country is ten days after he had been sworn into office – 2017. Since then, he has not granted pardon to prisons inmates. I am saying that there is a compelling reason why those powers which are provided for under the constitution should be invoked at this moment”, he noted.
He added “God forbid if there is an outbreak of disease in our prisons, we are headed for a disaster. So, I want to use this opportunity to call on the President to immediately grant pardon to some of our inmates as part of the strategies that should be deployed to deal with the coronavirus pandemic. In these trying moments, we must not forget our prison inmates. At the moment as I speak, the prisons population is about 14,000 and yet our prisons’ facilities can only contain about 8,000 inmates. So, what that simply means is that overcrowding in our prisons is about 50% and yet we are all under threat from this coronavirus pandemic”.