Prison Service Express Reservations About UN Reports

The Prisons Service administration has expressed reservations about a report presented by Mr Juan Mendez, UN Special Rapporteur on Torture, on the state of Ghanaian Prisons at the 25th session of the Human Rights Council of the United Nations on 10th March 2014.

In a statement copied to the Ghana News Agency on Friday, DSP Vitalis A-Iyeh, Chief Public Relations Officer, Ghana Prisons Service addressed some of the issues raised by the Chief Rapporteur in his presentation.

On overcrowding and human rights, he said the Ghana Prisons Service had started with an ongoing decongestion programme in some of the major prisons to ease the overcrowding and create more space for prisoners.

He said there had been transfer of prisoners from the highly congested prisons of Kumasi, Tamale, Sunyani and Ankaful Annex to the Ankaful Maximum Security Prisons which could contain 2,000 but had only 185 inmates as at March 2013.

The statement also said Government had supplied over 10,000 bunk beds, foam mattresses and bed sheets to all the prisons in the country to improve on prisoners’ bedding situation.

He said the Prisons Transformation Team set up by the Controller-General of Prisons to advise her had also assisted in decongesting the Ankaful Annex Prison by reducing the number of prisoners from 700 to 253.

“Through proper screening and categorisation, about 305 prisoners have been redistributed to prisons such as Ankaful Maximum and other Open Camp Prisons in the country”.

He said another move to decongest the Prisons led to the creation of the Paralegal Unit in the Prisons Service where officers of the Unit served as a link between Prison Administration, prisoners and other stakeholders of the Justice System such as the Attorney General’s Office, the Courts, the Police and other NGOs.

“This is to ensure that that cases are handled and tried expeditiously to limit the stay of prisoners in custody and also cut down the long stay of pre-trial detainees in custody to reasonable limits”.

He said the Prisons Service was in the process of developing a parole programme aimed at granting remission to reformed and deserving prisoners.

He intimated that the parole programme would also serve as an incentive scheme to get more offenders in custody to work hard at reforming so as to have the chance to of being released earlier.

On the issue of poor sanitation, DSP A-Iyeh attributed the situation to overcrowding adding that, the situation was being addressed with regular fumigation and disinfection.

He said the Prisons Service was also liaising with the Ministry of Health and development partners such as the British High Commission to improve on health care delivery to both staff and inmates in our Prisons by renovating the infirmaries and improving on drug supply.

“This obviously shows how Ghana is eager to satisfy the requirements of the UN Standard Minimum Rules (SMR) for the treatment of prisoners”, he said.

On the issue of delegating disciplinary authority to inmates over fellow inmates, he said prisoners were not employed in any disciplinary capacity adding that, it was rather those who had shown exemplary conduct and were well respected by their peers who were sometimes delegated with some responsibilities which according to DSP A-Iyeh were not very different from the provision under the guidelines of the UN Standard Minimum Rules.

On isolated cases of torture in Ghana prisons, he said the Prisons Administration had accordingly acted on the request of the UN Rapporteur to investigate the unfortunate incident of canning of juveniles he came across during his visit to the Ghana Borstal Institution during his visit in November, 2013.

“The outcome of the Service‘s inquiry has led to the discipline of those who were found culpable”, he stated.