General News of Tuesday, 18 February 2014
Source: Ivan Heathcote-Fumador/ultimate1069.com
Government says it is unaware of prevailing poor conditions at the Ankaful Maximum Security Prisons in the Central Region, where inmates are being transported in taxis and buses amidst several challenges to public health facilities.
Recent investigations by Ultimate Radio’s Central Regional Correspondent, Richard Kojo Nyarko, revealed that the prisoners who were transferred from the Nsawam Maximum Security Prison, the Kumasi Central, the Sekondi Central and the Ankaful Annex Prisons, are taken out to seek medical attention instead of being treated at the prison’s health centre solely built for the purposes of treating convicts with such criminal profiles.
The convicts, who are mainly for robbery and other first degree felonies, are serving sentences ranging between 50 to 172 years. They include notorious hardened criminals such as Ataa Ayi and Johnson Kombian.
Currently, two of the convicts are on admission at the Ankaful Leprosarium Hospital because the nurses at the prison’s health facility have no drugs to treat them and thus have no option than to refer them to other facilities elsewhere.
Doctors, who hitherto, were called in to work on the patients when their ailments were beyond the control of the nurses working in the facility, have also stopped going to the facility because there are no drugs and other related health materials.
A source at the Maximum security prisons told Kwadwo Nyarko; “there is no paracetamol, neither is there any single drug that can be used to treat the prisoners should any of them fall sick. Imagine sending someone like Ataa Ayi or Johnson Kombian out of this facility to seek medical attention elsewhere. Anything can happen!”
But this appears to be just a fraction of the challenges the facility is saddled with. Apart from the deficit in health at the Maximum security Prisons, convicts are sent to the courts in taxis and metro mass buses in and around Cape Coast.
“Some of them who are due for court are sent to board the metro buses as early as 4am to either Kumasi or beyond as a result of inadequate vehicles,” the source added.
The only vehicle – a Mahindra pickup- is not in good shape and breaks down constantly, heightening the security risk prison officials go through. The transfer of about 600 inmates was described as highly successful and well-coordinated as it was jointly executed by the Ghana Prisons Service and the Panthers Unit of the Ghana Police Service.
Unlike what currently pertains in most Ghanaian prisons, each inmate at the Ankaful Prison is entitled to a bed and a mattress. The 2,000 capacity ultra-modern prison facility was inaugurated by the late president, John Evans Atta Mills in November, 2011. It was described as a perfect and an ideal place for convicts that are considered to be hardened.
But unfortunately, after the inauguration of the facility, even the bio-fuel component that is supposed to provide fuel for cooking and other fuel needs for the prisoners has been discontinued. This is said to be putting dire financial stress on the prison authorities.
“It becomes very difficult getting fire wood to cook for these prisoners. Sometimes, we have to use our individual resources to conduct some magic in order to feed the inmates. The generator that is supposed to provide energy to power the facility when there is any power outage has only worked once since the inauguration of the facility in 2011.
“Imagine this dark place with the calibre of inmates we have here. All we have are our torch lights. It becomes very scary! Something needs to be done,” the source grieved.
The prison’s officers who spoke on anonymity have expressed fear of the looming threat of slippery criminals escaping on such perilous adventures of conveying them in public vehicles. They fear both for the safety of the public and for their jobs since they were going to be held liable for the fleeing of any prisoner in their custody.
The Ministry of Interior, which has oversight responsibilities of the nation’s prisons and correctional facilities, claims it is unaware of this veritable security threat at the prisons.
Deputy Interior Minister James Agalga in an interview with Kumasi-based Ultimate Radio said managers of the facility have not notified the Ministry of these challenges.
“This issue has not come to our notice at all from the prisons authority. If they have any administrative challenges of the sort, it behooves them to refer to us as a ministry with oversight responsibility” he said in awe.
When questioned on how the Ministry monitors the nation’s prisons facilities, he declined commenting further only to say that it would be premature for him to run commentary on the matter since according to him, “the issues uncovered in the investigation could be false”.
He, however, says his outfit was going to establish the veracity of the issues before he could offer informed explanations on happenings at the Ankaful Maximum Prison.