THE NECESSITY TO IMPLEMENT
ADEQUATE AND GENUINE PRISON REFORMS
By KASSI DJEINZOU AUGUSTIN
GHANA CURE INTERNATIONAL
Prisons are defined as buildings where people are kept as punishment for crime they have committed or while they are waiting for trial. International CURE even believes that prisons are used only for those who absolutely must be incarcerated. From “long walk to freedom” Nelson Mandela states that prisons are designed to break one’s spirit and destroy one resolve.
Today, in spite of multiple sensibilizations and efforts made in our countries and all over the world, Human Right advocates still become indignant before the pitiful, inhumane, miserable and infernal conditions related to the prisons. For this reason, a need to carry out adequate and genuine prison reforms is necessary.
I / PRISON AND INMATES CONDITIONS
In our different countries the prison conditions generally show the same features. The case of Ghana is clear and easy to understand.
Ghana judicial system is run by the Supreme Court. The main department in charge of prison issues is naturally the Ghana Prison Service in cooperation with the ministry of Justice and the ministry of Interior. It’s worth mentioning that Ghana is one of the African countries that is a member of some International Treaties on Death Penality and Human Rights such as (OPCAT), Optional Protocol for the Convention Against Torture and other Cruel, Human or Degrading Treatment or Punishment ( has signed but not yet ratified) and the African Charter on Human and People’s Rights.
As in many African countries, it did not escape economic and social poverty. It’s naturally one of the grounds that affects the population greatly and leads a large number of people into prison.
The Ghana prison facilities accommodate all varieties of persons. We may find men, old people, and juveniles including foreigners. The majority of detentions derive from stealing, manslaughter, drug, robbery, fraud, murder, assault, threat of death, unlawful entry, conspiracy, rape, causing harm and defilement.
According to United Nations Declaration of Human Rights from Article 7, all are equal before the law and any kind of discrimination is prohibited; we all know that degrading and inhuman treatments are likewise unacceptable by the constitution; however the contrary is practiced within our prison centers.
Many fatal cases in detention centers are really lamentable and pitiful.
In prison, the inmates’ living conditions are very harsh. Due to the lack of means and corruption, indigent inmates are faced with unfair justice. Some inmate had been jailed for many years without being on trial. Let’s outline that inadequate remuneration of the prison staffs increases unavoidably corruption.
Prison facilities’ workshops do not exist. If by any chance we could find some existing workshops there, they are not equipped to reach the outcome of the inmates rehabilitation.
For a long time thousands of detainees have been living in places we may describe as ‘’ forgotten zones’’, much of the prison population is held in buildings that are originally colonial; they show an abandoned appearance. In dilapidated construction, the spaces are limited with poor ventilation and sanitation. In addition, medical facilities are inadequate and in most case non-existent.
We also point out that a greater part of inmates did not receive formal education before their incarceration.
As in many countries the issue of overcrowding still remains questionable in Ghana prisons. It is even a relevant issue that should be conscientiously dealt with in our prisons. From the Ghana Prison Service annual report the prison population has doubled from 2008 to 2010 and we presently reach an approximate prison population of 18,000 living in facilities designed to accommodate 4,000.
N’sawam Medium Security prison, the most important prison of Ghana built in 1956 to accommodate 717 inmates now has over 4,000 inmates. In the same way; 55 inmates can share a cell meant for 12.
Overcrowding is really a serious health risk for incarcerated persons.
In our detention centers, this fact of matter contributes to a prevalence of serious and communicable diseases such as AIDS, tuberculosis, Itch, cholera, cough, asthma and typhoid fever.
It is also regrettable to notice the frequency of suffocation, assaults between inmates themselves, homosexuality, lesbianism and sodomy in the midst of the incarceration areas.
Besides, bedding and clothing worries for prisoners still persist and they also do not eat according to their expectation. The only provided meals and water are of poor quality. On account of food shortages, they are compelled to rely on their families or outside organizations for additional food and other necessities.
For decades our rulers have never been aware of voting that is one of the social rights of incarcerated persons. Unfortunately prisoners voting are a taboo issue in our country and in many countries of our continent.
II/ ADEQUATE AND GENUINE PRISON REFORMS
In view of all those sad realities in the prisons of our country, we have to recognize that many works remain to be done in the field of prison reforms. Therefore some good and efficient measures must be taken to make credible our rehabilitation struggle on behalf of the prisoners. To fulfill this goal, we must all pay heed and be aware of the living condition of the prisoners regardless their social status.
Prison Reforms efforts must be absolutely based on some relevant Human Rights tools such as:
- The ‘’UN Standard Minimum Rules for the treatment of prisoners
approved 31 July 1957
- The UN Declaration of Human Rights 1948
- The Kampala Declaration on prison Condition in Africa
- International CURE recommendations, March 16 2008, to the
Inter-American Human Rights Commission.
Although the governments have committed themselves to improve prisons’ conditions, many things must be done again in several areas: adequate sanitary conditions, nutritional food, drinking water, hygienic facilities, suitable clothing, adequate medical service and education including skills development.
Fighting for the sake of the prisoners is surely a noble work. In the same way, all these recommendations will be more meaningful if existing budget and periodic subsidies are allocated to enhance Rehabilitation and Restoration efforts in our respective countries.
It is a great challenge we should win by all means in our different CURE representations including other concerned Human Rights advocates.
The Mission is very difficult but not impossible
CITIZENS UNITED FOR THE REHABILITATION OF ERRANTS
P.O BOX DS 1666 DANSOMAN- ACCRA
+233 546 973 093 OR +233 274203671