General News of Thursday, 13 July 2017
The government has given the greenlight to the Ghana Prisons Service to recruit 1,000 more personnel to shore up its numbers towards working to meet international best practice in prison management and reformation.
Additionally, steps are being taken to ensure that personnel of the service receive adequate local training, sensitisation and also participate in foreign missions and exchanges in order to build their capacity for exceptional work output.
Vice-President Dr Mahamudu Bawumia, who announced this at the swearing-in of the Prisons Service Council in Accra last Tuesday, also said the desire of the government was to champion the introduction of a non-custodial sentencing law to offer more non-custodial sentence options to judges.
Such a move, he said, would help avoid the congestion, human rights abuses and the associated evils that had become normal features of the country’s prisons.
The Prisons Service Council has the Most Reverend Peter Paul Yelezuome Angkyier as its Chairman and the Minister of the Interior, Mr Ambrose Dery as a member.
The other members are the Director-General of the Prisons Service, Mr Patrick Darko Mensah, a member of the Ghana Medical Association, Dr Frank Ankobea, a member of the Ghana Bar Association (GBA), Mr Kwasi Amoako Adjei, a representative of the Ministry of Justice & Attorney-General, Madam Yvonne Akakora Obuobisa and Mr Benjamin Akonu Otoo.
The rest are Rev. Dr Kwabena Opuni Frimpong who is representing the Christian Council of Ghana, a representative of senior officers of the Service, Mr Samuel Akampure Akolbire, a representative of the subordinate officers, Miss Dorcas Bonnah, a representative of the National House of Chiefs, Buipe-wura Mahama Abdulai Jinapor II and two representatives of the President, Madam Sarah M. Adetola and Madam Matilda Baffour-Awuah.
Dr Bawumia said the issue of the human rights of prison inmates remained a concern to all Ghanaians and, therefore, urged the board that its mandate could be successful only if it looked at both sides of the physical infrastructure and the welfare of prison officers.
He said though inmates were confined as prisoners, “let us not forget that they have rights which cannot be taken for granted and this requires the professional training and retraining of our officers using modern methods and know-how and certain processes and procedures.”
He added that it was the expectation of the government that the Ghana Prisons Service would rebrand itself.
“Our expectations of diligence and professionalism are high. This is what we need in order for the general public to have trust and confidence in their role in building mother Ghana through prisoner reform,” the Vice-president stressed.
Dr Bawumia also asked the Prison Service to take note of the fact that the institution was an essential service provider and, therefore, it operators ought to avoid taking to industrial action in expressing grievances.
That, he said, meant that the council ought to be proactive in dealing with issues in order not to create a situation beyond control.
The Vice-President also urged the council to consider relocating prisons sited within populated areas to more appropriate and suitable locations.
Dr Bawumia said the essence of the country’s prisons was to rehabilitate its inmates for them to return to play the roles expected of them as citizens.
Unfortunately, he admitted that the prisons were not in the position to offer that important service.
“Indeed, apart from the Nsawam Medium Security Prison, and recently, the newly built Ankaful Maximum Security Prison, all other prison facilities in the country are relics of the old forts and castles bequeathed to us by the colonial administration,” he stated.
Better facilities needed
He said it was sad that with an increase in population from a little over six million at independence to 27 million and a corresponding increase in crime and deviant behaviours, no expansion and rehabilitation works had been done on the prisons.
“Our prison facilities obviously need to be expanded and equipped with the requisite rehabilitation tools and trained personnel to manage these facilities for better outcomes”.
“Our facilities as they currently stand are highly and inhumanely overpopulated and overcrowded with the attendant threats of outbreak of diseases, negative survival behaviours and human rights abuses,” the Vice-President said.
Dr Bawumia expressed the hope that under the new council and with the support of the government, “we will work hard to end the record of being the ones to right these wrongs in our country’s facilities.”