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A Death Of Ghana’s Probation Service? - COMMUNITY SENTENCES

Community Sentences

1. Overview: You may get a community sentence if you’re convicted of a crime by a court but are not sent to prison. You may have to do unpaid work in your local community, like removing graffiti. This is called Community Payback. Community sentences can be given for crimes such as: damaging property; benefit fraud; and assault. You may get a community sentence if: the court thinks you’re more likely to stop committing crime than if you go to prison; it’s the first time you have committed a crime and you have a mental health condition that affects your behavior.

2. Community Payback- this is unpaid work like: removing graffiti; clearing wasteland; decorating public places and buildings – eg. a community centre. You will usually work in your local area, and be managed by a Community Payback supervisor. You must wear a high visibility orange vest while you work. You can expect to complete anything from 40 to 300 hours of Community Payback, depending on how serious your crime was. You have to work 3 or 4 days each week if you’re unemployed. This will be arranged outside your working hours if you have a job, eg evenings or weekends.

3. Treatment and programmes- They are intended to help with problems that led you to commit crime in the first place. They’re also to stop you committing more crime. It could be used to help with: any addictions you have: drugs; a mental health condition; getting new skills and qualifications. Depending on the treatment or programme, it could involve: counselling sessions- where you get support from a medical professional drug testing; ‘accredited programmes’, such as anger management courses, to help with your behavior; mental health treatment with a doctor or psychologist; improving your reading and writing; getting help with a job application; learning interview skills; meeting people who were affected by your offence, as part of a restorative justice programme. If you don’t complete a treatment or programme, or fail a drugs test, you could be sent back to court and your punishment could increase.

4. What you can and can’t do while on a community sentence is decided by: a court when you are sentenced; the person dealing with your sentence once it’s started- is called the ‘offender manager’. This can include: being at a particular place at certain times - known as a ‘curfew’; wearing an electronic tag to check that you stay there; appointments with an offender manager; being stopped from going to certain places or areas, eg your victim’s home; being stopped from taking part in certain activities, eg going to a pub or a bar; being told where you have to live, eg a family member’s home. If you don’t stick to the rules while you’re on a community sentence, you could get a warning or be sent back to court, and your punishment could increase.

5. Community sentences if you are under 18: These differ from those given to adults. There are 3 main types a court can give you: referral orders – when, with a panel of people from your local community and your youth justice workers, you are asked to agree a programme of work to address your behavior; reparation orders – when you make up for the harm caused by your crime, like repairing any damage to the victim’s property. Youth Rehabilitation Order – when a court decides on different things that you have to do or must not do, which can last for up to 3 years. You can also be given a discharge, when the court decides that the experience of being arrested and going to court is enough of a punishment.

As part of your community sentence you may also have to speak to the victim and: listen to their side of the story; apologise to them, either in writing or, if the victim wants, face-to-face. If you break the rules of your community sentence you could end up back in court, and if you have recently been released from custody you could be sent back [9].


With the seemingly overcrowding prison population, dominated by youthful offenders and the death of probation services, a public or privatized services that focus on offender management, is long overdue in Ghana. Yes, recognizing the particular vulnerability of pre-trial detainees, international human rights instruments provide for a variety of specific safeguards [to be considered in future], to ensure that the rights of detainees are not abused, that they are not ill-treated and their access to justice not hindered.

Compiled and Dispatch By Asante Fordjour LLB(Hons)LLM International Law And Criminal Justice; on behalf of the Samaritan Street Project, to be considered by the Government of the Republic of Ghana.





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