The Executive Director of Crime Check Foundation (CCF), Ibrahim Oppong Kwarteng, has entreated Metropolitan, Municipal and District Assemblies (MMDAs) to engage vagrants who violate bye-laws gainfully for development instead of imprisoning them.
Mr. Kwarteng indicated that jailing vagrants who commit petty offences only increases the already choked prisons and exposes them to crime because they are kept in the same prison with hardened criminals.
He suggested that instead, they should be given alternative sentences that would benefit the country.
He made the statement when he reiterated his call for the passage of the non-Custodial Sentencing bill into law at a sensitization programme on the bye-laws of the Awutu Senya East Municipal Assembly (ASEMA).
The programme which formed part of the implementation of CCF’s Decriminalizing Vagrancy Laws and Advocacy project seeks to increase citizens’ knowledge on the local bye-laws to reduce offences, arrests, fines and imprisonments of poor and voiceless citizens under the laws.
It is expected to create an enabling environment for vagrants (the homeless, street hawkers, head porters, vendors, truck pushers, market women, artisans, and other identifiable and vulnerable groups) to know, claim and exercise their rights and responsibilities in Ghana. The project is supported by the Open Society Initiative for West Africa (OSIWA).
The prisons reform advocate expressed dissatisfaction at the delay in the passage of the non-Custodial Sentencing bill into law, which he says has been in and out of Parliament for seven years.
He said the absence of the law dents Ghana’s credentials as a democratic state. Mr. Kwarteng has therefore urged parliament to ensure its passage as soon as possible.
“When these vagrants are jailed, we feed them with taxpayers money. They can be made to work to generate income for the assembly instead of jailing them and adding on to the congestion in our prisons. The prisons do not have proper classification so petty offenders and hardened criminals are put together,” he lamented.
He added “Present and past governments have been dragging their feet in getting the bill passed into law. They have failed us.”
The Municipal Chief Executive (MCE) of ASEMA, Michael Essuman Mensah, applauded the initiative and encouraged MMDAs to educate vagrants on the laws when they are found culpable instead of punishing them.
“Some of these vagrants are ignorant of the law and there is the need to educate them. Most of them engage in crime because of their poor social status,” he argued.
The event ended with the participants raising various challenges that affect their businesses.