No meat in prisoners’ soup, No sugar in ‘Koko’

General News of Friday, 19 September 2014

Source: Ghanaian Times

Mark Woyongo Defence Minister GH

Inmates of some prisons in the country have not eaten meat from soup served them for close to a year while others take porridge, popularly called ‘koko’, without sugar.

This is because the daily feeding allowance of Ghc1.80p a day per inmate is woefully inadequate.

The Interior Minister, Mr. Mark Owen Woyongo, disclosed this yesterday during his maiden visit to the Ghana Prisons Service Headquarters in Accra.

He wondered what Ghc1.80p could buy, let alone feed somebody three times a day, saying though the current financial situation of the government is not stable, he believed something could be done about the situation.

Mr. Woyongo said a recent visit to the Navrongo Central Prison in the Upper East Region revealed the plight of inmates of prisons.

Apart from the insanitary condition that bedeviled the prison, the minister said there was overcrowding, which posed a serious challenge not only to the inmates, but also the officers who man the facility.

The minister described as unacceptable, the more than 3,000 inmates on remand, some for more than five or 10 years, for minor offences.

Mr. Woyongo said the Deputy Minister for the Interior, James Agalga, will hold a meeting with the Attorney General’s Department, the Ghana Bar Association, the paralegal institutions and stakeholders to see how best to review obnoxious laws that incarcerate people for minor offences.

He said his outfit was considering introducing non-custodial sentences for minor and first time offenders to reduce overcrowding in the prisons, adding that such offenders would be sent to the assemblies or to Zoomlion to undertake communal work.

According to the minister, keeping minor offenders and first time offenders in prison rather hardens them instead of reforming them, as some learn new tricks, thereby posing a threat to society.

Mr Woyongo urged the Service to venture into public-private partnership to develop its arable lands across the country.

The Controller-General of the Service, Matilda Baffour-Awuah, was grateful to the minister for the visit, saying her outfit was in contact with some private partners to expand its operations.

Currently, she said there was a plan at the Tamale Prisons to produce baskets for export.

Efforts are also underway to rehabilitate some prisons and camps as well as upgrading the Nsawam Prison infirmary into a clinic.

The Deputy Controller in charge of Finance and Administration, Mr. Patrick Darko Missah said currently, there were 14, 585 inmates out of which 11,581 were convicts and 3004 were on remand.

Unfortunately, he said, apart from the Nsawam Medium Security Prisons, Ankaful, and the Kete Krachi Prisons which were built to house inmates, the remaining prison centres were warehouses, stores, and silos among others, meant to house goods.

The Nsawam Prisons, meant to hold 717 inmates, now houses 3,747, an increase of 340 per cent, he said.

He, therefore, appealed for funding, to reduce the congestion.