“It is unfair to lump both convicted and remand Prisoners together” H.E President John D.Mahama
The Ghana Prisons Service is an adjunct of the Criminal Justice System of Ghana and its mandated by the Prisons Service Act 1972 (NRCD 46) to ensure the safe custody and welfare of inmates. There are multiple categories of inmate classification but the ones of importance to this discussion are inmates convicted by a competent court of jurisdiction (convicted inmates) and those still awaiting trial or pre-trial (remand) prisoners. The latter is on record in documentaries and UN documentation as spending sometimes up to a decade in prison waiting to see a judge. This was the subject of the documentary “Locked and Forgotten” by Seth Kwame Boateng. The 6th Prisons council in collaboration with the Prisons Directorate has visited the Minister of Justice as well as all other links within the criminal justice system pledging for ways and measure by which this challenge of long waiting periods can be reduced.
But while the problem persists, an even greater sacrilege is that because of the lack of infrastructure, and space, these who have to wait for long periods before securing justice, have to do so lump in the same congested inhumane quarters as those who have been convicted of crimes. This increases the likelihood or remandees being infected with criminal skills, knowledge and abilities. The trauma and psychological trauma suffered from such a travesty is also immeasurable. No one should have to go through this.
United Nations Standard Minimum Rules for the Treatment of Prisoners (the Mandela Rules) states clearly under Rule 11 (b) that, “Untried prisoners shall be kept separate from convicted prisoners”.
Ghana used to have a remand home at the Usher Fort but this has since been decommissioned. At present Ghana does not even have one remand home.
According to the Project Efiase Annual Report 2015/2016, this is due to the fact that many prisons were no purpose built and for those that were, they were not rehabilitation and reformation focused. At the time they were constructed reformation was not the main focus of prisons.
Sod-Cutting for Ghana’s Only Remand Prison
At the instance of the 6th Ghana Prisons Service Council chaired by Rev. Dr. Stephen Wengam, President John Dramani Mahama was invited to visit the Nsawam Prison. After touring the facility and interacting with inmates, he promised the release of funds for the expansion of prisons facilities—specifically the building of what will be Ghana’s only remand prison.
He was accompanied on the visit to Nsawam by the Finance Minister who after the visit stated in the statement of the mid-year review of the budget statement and economic policy for the 2015 financial year presented to parliament on Tuesday, 21st July, 2015 under section 33, that:
“Recall His Excellency’s visit to the Nsawam Prisons after participating in the Efiase Project. As he observed, it is another area of supreme humanitarian need that requires Government action. Every effort is being made by relevant MDAs to reprioritize expenditures to complement the promise of GH¢50 million assistance to enable us respond to these needs appropriately. Plans are also being put in place, including the alignment of IGFs and statutory funds to mitigate the risk of similar future disasters”.
Thankfully the money has been released and the project is underway. Four different contractors are currently on site working on the construction of the Remand Home.
This is no doubt a laudable thing for the government to do but one remand home may not be sufficient for the numbers of untried prisoners within the Ghana Prisons System. There is need for more. Understandably within the current economic climate this might be difficult to do. Maybe it’s times to explore other avenues for financing such projects—some of which may include the use of loan facilities or public private partnerships based on profit making initiates. All the above have pros and cons but Ghanaians must juxtapose these against the cost of not having such facilities which potentially includes increased crime within communities and increased police presence.