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General News of Friday, 29 February 2008

Source: Ghanaian Observer

Sodomy Cases Rise In Prisons

Reacting to an observation from a reporter who wanted it confirmed by the prison authorities that some prisoners engage in acts of Sodomy, a former Director of the Nsawam Prisons affirmed the fact, saying, however, that each time any report of acts of Sodomy had come to the notice of the prison authorities, those involved are severely dealt with.

`We admit the occurrence of such nasty acts as you mentioned. We will not be dishonest about it; however, anytime such an incident has occurred, we have moved swiftly to apply severe sanctions on `the husband and wife engaged in the act.` `It is a continuing process,` he added, saying that it needs remedial measures on the part of all stakeholders to eliminate the phenomenon of Sodomy in the prisons, which appears to be one major problem but has been kept secret for sometime now.

`Although some of the men and women in our prisons of the same sex at a point identify themselves as man and wife, it is not allowed and those caught in such games are severely punished to serve as deterrent for others.` He added however that although it is suggested that culprits found must be separated and put in different prisons, the Service has resorted to a more proactive approach such as counselling for those engaged in the act to stop.

This step, he believed, would rather gradually serve to nib the practice in the bud instead of the separation which has the tendency of further spreading the practice to other prisons.Speaking on Ghana`s penal administrative system, the Prisons Service`s Director General, Mr. W. K. Asiedu stated: `The penal regime requires heavy investment in the Prisons Service. Criminal Justice is expensive. So is security. We take things for granted because we do not sit down to assess the cost to us as a nation, for example, if the mass of offending citizenry were to be unleashed on society in a break-out in the first place and ultimately when they come out to re-offend,` he added.

Even in advanced countries, Mr. Asiedu said, the cost is phenomenal, citing the case of the State of Michigan, where it costs $6,800 a year to educate one student, but costs $30,000 to imprison one person for the same period. Highlighting that expensive phenomenon of maintaining prisoners, he revealed that more than 20% of Michigan`s budget ($1.78billion) is spent on the prisons.

The Director General of Prisons further observed that the State of Ghana cannot dream of coming near such figures, as the country spends about GH¢ 1,550.36 on a prisoner per year, adding that `This is why it is important that the project `Efiase` is supported so that society would realise the importance of supporting the penal system.` He underscored that successful re-integration of an ex-convict also recognises the acquisition of capital with which to re-start life in the formal sector, as the stigma of incarceration will dog him all his life after incarceration.

Further touching on the deplorable condition of Ghanaian prisons at the pre-launching press soiree for the `Efiase Project` Mr. W. E. Asiedu, stated that the Prisons Service is an important agency for maintaining internal security but also has a duty to contribute to the successful reintegration of ex-convicts into the society. `We serve no useful purpose if, at the end of the day, the ex-convict returns to society without any skills to help him operate as a law-abiding citizen with the means to survive,` the Director General pointed out.

`Efiase` which in the Akan language means Prison, seeks to re-orient all Ghanaians and corporate citizens on the role and functions of the Ghana Prisons Service and the need to equip and empower the Service to reform and train those who get entangled with the law and are sent to prison. The project will be deployed in three phases, which include education of the public as regards the roles and functions of the Prisons Service and also highlight the conditions and general situation of the prisons. It is also to focus on how much positive change can be made and the level of resources and commitment accorded penal administration in relation to the Ghana Prisons Service.

The project will as well highlight the successes chalked by the Service irrespective of severe constraints confronting the Service in their quest to reform prisoners. Additionally, achievements of this project would be to showcase to the public a case for the benefits society would derive from investing in the Prisons Service. In line with this the Prisons boss said plans were afoot to change the current name of the Service to Ghana Correctional Service (GCS), to change the perception that society has about it as a correctional institution.

Continuing, Mr. Asiedu observed that the treatment process of the prisoners starts from the first day of incarceration and for them to survive the prison conditions, they need to have access to good quality food, medical care and hygienic conditions. According to him, when these conditions are put in place, the prisoners would then be in a position to undertake institutional instruction and commit to the programmes of the reformation and rehabilitation. Mr. Kwame Osei-Prempeh, Deputy Minister of Justice and Attorney General, said everybody is a potential prisoner and therefore all must contribute to develop Ghanaian prisons. The Deputy Minister charged journalists to work with the Ghana Prisons Services to completely transform the prisons.

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