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Over 1,000 ex-convicts returned to prison each year since 2015

Over 7,181 people who carry conviction records are said to have been admitted back to Ghana’s prisons between 2015 and 2020, according to data from the Ghana Prisons Service.

This phenomenon which is known as recidivism has been steadily trending upwards since 2015 but recorded a drop in 2020.

2015 – 1,214 ex-convicts returned to prison
The year saw about 1,214 persons who relapsed into criminal behaviour even after receiving sanctions or undergoing intervention for a previous crime.

This represents some 16% of the total number of people convicted in the year.

2016 – 1,505 ex-convicts returned to prison
There was an increase in the number of recidivism cases as some 1,505 ex-convicts were admitted back to the prisons. This represents about 21% of convicted cases in the year.

Number of prison returnees in 2017 – unavailable
The data for 2017, according to the Ghana Prisons Service, had not been verified, hence was not readily available.

2018 – 1,680 ex-convicts returned to prison
Out of the 9,034 persons imprisoned in the year, about 1,680 people who committed a crime after serving a previous sentence were reconvicted. This represents about 19% of persons incarcerated.

2019 – 1,671 ex-convicts returned to prison
In 2019, some 19% of prisoners were ex-convicts. About 1,671 people returned to jail for going back to some previous behaviours, especially criminal behaviour.

2020 – 1,111 ex-convicts returned to prison
There was a decline in the number of people who were reconvicted in 2020. Some 1,111 previously convicted criminals reoffended and re-entered the prison system, representing about 18% of convicted persons.

Focus on reformation to reduce recidivism
A lecturer at the Ghana Institute of management and Public Administration (GIMPA) Law Faculty, Dr Isidore Tufuor, during an interview with The Finder, pointed out that instead of focusing purely on the punitive criminal justice system, the Ghana Prisons Service must consider ways of reforming prisoners and ensuring that they go through rehabilitation to reduce the chances of recidivism.

“Let us look beyond the punishment and the imprisonment. The prison must be able to reform people rather than bring them out as hardened criminals,” he explained.

Dr Tufuor noted that it was very problematic to have a high rate of recidivism in the country.

He requested that researchers go to the ground and seek information from prisoners as to why they return to jail.

However, GIMPA Law lecturer said if the country had the right reformative structure and proper social intervention programmes, the number of such cases would reduce.

“Reintegration is a major problem now. The lack of jobs, social interventions, stigma among others, are also factors.

So we need an empirical study to interrogate prisoners and find out the major causes of recidivism,” Dr Tufuor stressed.

He noted that the solution to recidivism is tied to the problem. He, therefore, suggested that the solution must be developed locally by taking steps to identify what the problems are.

“We will fail if we do not take the steps to find out the root causes. The solution is tied to the problems and we do not know the problem which is the reason why they return to jail,” he said.

The GIMPA Law lecturer said inasmuch as there was help needed from all angles to improve the Ghana Prisons Service, the prisoners do not need food to address the reasons that take them back to the prisons.

Rather, he noted that they need a reformative structure and interventional measures to help them survive post-release.

Dr Tufuor urged the society to accept ex-convicts and give them opportunities to reintegrate them.

He also called on government to sacrifice some portion of the taxpayers’ money to help in reforming prisoners.

“A reintegration programme is needed to dilute the effect of criminal records, reduce the stigma and the rate of crime so that they can immediately rejoin society. In all, the state needs to resource the prisons,” he underscored.

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