Two-fold programme to transform prisons launched

President John Dramani Mahama has launched a 10-year strategic plan to transform the country’s prisons, with a pledge to increase the budgetary allocation to the Ghana Prisons Service in next year's budget.

The increased funding, he said, would help transform the penal system by, among other things, providing vehicles, logistics, communication equipment and accommodation.
The strategic plan, along with a fundraising campaign being run by the Prisons Service, known as the Project Efiase, is expected to improve the welfare of prisoners and prison officers.
The two programmes were launched last Tuesday in Accra.
Contributions to the Efiase Project can be paid into account number 0010084415563401 in all Ecobank branches nationwide.

Challenges 

Ghana's 43 prisons are noted for overcrowding, poor infrastructure and inadequate funding for their operations.
Although the prisons have capacity for 9,000 inmates, they are filled with 15,000 prisoners.
The Nsawam, Kumasi, Sunyani, Koforidua, Navrongo and Sekondi prisons are between 50 and 300 per cent overpopulated.
The situation is compounded by thousands of remand prisoners who are left in the prisons and sometimes tend to be forgotten.
President Mahama acknowledged the horrid conditions in the prisons.
He said the colonial philosophy of incarcerating people was to punish them for the crimes they had committed, but the world had progressed and moved from that philosophy to taking people out of society to keep them, reform them and then reintegrate them into society.
The President said investments in our prisons over the years had not been a priority because of restrictions on the budget and the needs from all sectors of the economy.

Innovation & partnership

President Mahama was full of praise for the Prisons Council and the Prisons Service Command for launching the campaign.
“I am positive that with such a partnership, we can and will succeed in transforming our prisons,” he added.
He noted that while society had taken prisoners from among its fold for some time, they were still humans who had rights.
“We might have restricted all their freedom to movement but all their other rights are active,” he stressed.
President Mahama said over the years, the state of the country’s prisons had affected prisoner exchange agreements with other countries and commended the United Kingdom, the United States and the Chinese governments for their roles in the country’s attempt at prison reforms over the years.

Alternative sentencing

The Minister of the Interior, Mr Mark Owen Woyongo, commended the Prisons Service for the innovation which, he said, would turn around the fortunes of the country’s prisons.
He said the time had come for the country to adopt a holistic approach to the justice system and find alternative sentencing for offences.
 In that regard, he said, the Ministry of the Interior was working with the Attorney-General’s Department to develop alternative sentencing, including community sentencing, as part of measures to decongest the prisons.
The Director-General of the Ghana Prisons Service, Mrs Matilda Baffour-Awiah, said the average cost of feeding prisoners annually over the last three years was GH¢9.86 million, in addition to other administrative and operational costs.
That, she said, called for the need for the service to create a viable agricultural and industrial base to produce goods and services to generate income to support government funding.
The Chairman of the Prisons Service Council, Rev Dr Stephen Wengham, while rallying support for Project Efiase, said if all Ghanaians could donate at least GHc1 each to support the project, the service could raise GH¢24 million in no time.
“The prison is every Ghanaian’s second home. The prisoner is your friend. Let us all help to transform the prisons,” he stressed.
The occasion was also used to unveil 25 ambassadors — people who were selected to champion the cause of Project Efiase.
The Chinese government donated 10 computers, 10 uninterrupted power systems (UPSs) and 10 sewing machines to the service.

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