The opposition National Democratic Congress (NDC) is calling on President Akufo-Addo to temporarily release more than 4,000 prisoners in an effort to combat the spread of the coronavirus disease in crowded jails.
Member of Parliament (MP) for Builsa North, James Agalga, who made the call, said the incarcerated population, which is about 14,000, is uniquely vulnerable to the pandemic because of overcrowding.
According to him, overcrowding in the nation’s prison facilities is close to 50 percent, and that prisons actually meant for 8,000 inmates are now being used to accommodate 14,000 people.
Speaking to journalists at the precinct of Parliament yesterday, the MP, who is also the Ranking Member on the Committee for Defence and Interior, indicated that the coronavirus disease makes the moment right for the granting of presidential pardon to petty criminal offenders.
The president has already granted amnesty to about 800 prisoners in the wake of Covid-19.
“The situation is the right moment for the President to consider the option of exercising the prerogative mercy function under the Constitution to provide for or grant pardon to, at least, the petty offenders who have been incarcerated within this period,” he stressed.
Agalga, who is a former Deputy Minister of the Interior, asserted that this would help decongest the prison facilities, adding that Ghana would head for a disaster, if there should be an outbreak in prisons across the country.
There have been mass prison releases and jail riots in the wake of infections in some countries hard-hit by COVID-19, including Colombia, and the MP believed Ghana could draw useful lessons from that.
“Let’s us draw useful lessons from what happened in Colombia. 23 prisoners lost their lives because they were agitated as a result of the coronavirus. UK and other countries have drawn useful lessons in what happened in Colombia,” the MP asserted.
Agalga also supported calls for an immediate lock-down of the country to stem the spread of the disease.
The Ghana Medical Association (GMA) on Wednesday urged President Akufo-Addo to lock down the country, indicating that the lockdown, though not a comfortable decision for leadership and citizens alike, is a proven option backed by science and along with the other measures will ultimately be in our best interest.
The MP said the time had come for the government to listen to wise counsel to proceed with the lockdown in the face of increasing threat of COVID-19