Post written by Tori Hirsch
When looking at the criminal justice system in the United States, it can be easy to point out obvious flaws in what seems like a “snail’s pace” of justice.
Trials are lengthy, court dockets are full, prisons are crowded, and even with speedy trial statutes, cases still take many months to be resolved.
Nonetheless, one area within this system provides accused persons an opportunity to expedite this process: the plea bargain.
Simply stated, a plea bargain is an agreement between the prosecutor and the defendant which provides a lightened sentence for the accused in exchange for a guilty plea.
If willing to take ownership of the crime, the accused will receive a reduced sentence and skip much of the emotionally and physically taxing aspects of criminal trials. This tool facilitates justice by expediting the process for guilty criminals to serve out their sentences. Plea bargaining will have positive and wide-sweeping impacts in countries like Ghana, where plea bargaining is in the process of being implemented. This semester, my work with IJM Ghana has primarily focused on building up the criminal justice system, and plea bargaining is one practical way to do it.
Plea Bargains in Ghana
In Ghana, the recent push in favor of plea bargaining resulted in creating a bill brought before Parliament in December 2021. Like other plea bargaining bills across the globe, this bill responds to the judicial issues of backlogged cases, overcrowded prisons, and accused persons waiting for years to receive a preliminary hearing. The bill provides that for certain nonviolent crimes, the accused may admit their guilt to the court and enter into an arrangement with the prosecutor that may result in a reduced sentence or even no time served at all. Passing this bill will provide an outlet for guilty persons to admit their guilt, bypass arduous judicial proceedings, and receive their punishment sooner.
Plea bargaining has proven effective in reducing prison backlog in other countries like Uganda and will be similarly effective in Ghana if Parliament passes the bill. IJM Ghana is working on issues like plea bargaining and block trials to find gaps in Ghana’s justice system, strengthen it through legislation, and support local officials in implementing these new legal features.
This post was written by a Center for Global Justice Student Staff member. The views expressed in this post do not necessarily reflect those of Regent University, Regent Law School, or the Center for Global Justice.