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General News Thu, 21 Nov 2002

Stop jailing people who steal okro.. -businessman

A Kumasi businessman, Mr. Kweku Owusu, has said the government's expenditure on prisons in the country is a complete drain on the tax payers' contribution to nation coffers.

The proprietor of Kweku Owusu Enterprise observed that "there is more waste in the prisons."

He cautioned the government against any intended increases in taxes because it is not necessary.

"The government must not depend on taxes for development because a large percentage were wasted at their prisons, " he added.

He explained that with the current ?3,000 per day per each prisoner it did not make sense for the courts to jail somebody who stole say pawpaw, okro or cassava and was imprisoned for two or more years for defaulting in the payment of a fine of ?200,000.

"Eventually, the government spends about ?236,000 on such a person aside electricity, water clothing and drugs," he asserted.

At Akuse prisons, for instance, where there are about 236 prisoners, government spends ?55,696 at the expense of the taxpayer and the provision of infrastructural facilities.

Owusu has, therefore, suggested the establishment of open prisons where all defaulters of fines could go and serve public institutions to defray such fines while at the same time the state benefits from their services.

Such a move, he noted, could go a long way to decongest the prisons and help with the effective rehabilitation of such persons.

According to Owusu, who is also a lay prison minister, the inmates should not be mingled with hardened criminals in the cells as a mere suspect who comes out of the place turns a criminal because of the association in there.

"They (prisoners) could be grouped in categories and detained according to the level of offence," Owusu suggested.

He also frowned on the continued detention of suspects because either prosecutors had died or investigators had been transferred.

"Reconciliation must start from the prisons," he said. Meanwhile, Owusu has raised concern over the detention of an HIV/AIDS person at the Akuse prison where 64 prisoners, including the AIDS patient, are crowded in cell.

According to him, the prisons warders were aware of this person living with HIV in the prison but could not do anything about the situation.

The businessman therefore appealed to the government to do something to save the situation and precious lives.

Source: Ghanaian Chronicle