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Opinions of Thursday, 29 October 2015

Columnist: Abundant Robert K. Awolugutu

Ghana Prisons Service’s 10-Year Strategic Plan

Opinion Opinion

However beautiful the strategy, you should occasionally look at the results.
-Sir Winston Churchill.

The purpose of this article is to throw light on the 10-Year Strategic Plan of the Ghana Prisons Service. The document was crafted by the sixth Prisons Service Council headed by its visionary and dynamic chairman, Rev Dr Stephen Wengam. It follows an audit of the activities of the Prisons Service, which revealed many deficiencies undermining the effectiveness of the institution.

The 10-Year Strategic Plan sets the priorities of the service, the direction it should go and decision making on the allocation of resources for carrying out the strategy.

At a ceremony which was well attended by prison officials, key stakeholders, civil society organisations, faith-based organisations, diplomatic personnel, ministers of state, Members of Parliament and a cross-section of the public, President Mahama launched the 10-Year Strategic Plan at the conference hall of College of Physicians and Surgeons on June 30, 2015 in Accra.

The goals of the Strategic Plan can be reduced to the following:
(a)Strengthen our manpower planning,
(b)Provide safe, secure and humane custody,
(c)Create a conducive environment for prisoner reformation and rehabilitation,
(d)Raise funds to improve infrastructure and the entire penal system,
(e)Improve knowledge to disabuse the minds of people about prisons and its mandate,
(f)Rebrand the service to improve its image and bring it in line with universally accepted standards and best practices.

The Strategic Plan is the vision of the Prisons Service Council. This vision needs to be articulated, and this must be done continuously so as to get prison officials, stakeholders, corporate entities, NGOs, public-spirited individuals and the general public to embrace it. Vision must be communicated and shared. It must be understood by senior management, and this should cascade down to frontline staff. Those who work in the prisons must demonstrate commitment and be diligent in carrying out tasks that will turn the vision into reality.

Professional staff
The Prisons Service can boast of high calibre personnel and experts of varying backgrounds whose collective intelligence can be tapped to achieve the goals of the service. These professional staff include architects, engineers, accountants, agriculturists, medical staff, legal experts, marketing personnel and human resource managers, who can collaborate with financial institutions, local- and foreign-based NGOs and private sector entrepreneurs to undertake productive ventures to generate badly needed funds to augment what government provides so as to effectively deal with the mountainous challenges plaguing the service. The service must take advantage of its other resources such as its cheap labour and lands it has acquired to accelerate its development and transformation.

Efiase project
It is refreshing to recall that President Mahama not only launched the Strategic Plan, he also launched Project Efiase, a bold initiative of the Prisons Service Council to raise funds from corporate entities, philanthropic individuals and organisations and the general public in support of skills training for inmates to address their offending behaviour and reduce reoffending, as well as improve infrastructure to transform the service into a world-class correction institution.

The council has plans to build a hospital to cater for the health needs of inmates, officers and their dependents, as well as serve the public. It also has plans to build new prisons to provide temporary relief to prisons that are heavily congested. Funds are needed for these projects to be executed.

The council has opened accounts with reputable banks and telecom service providers so that those who want to donate their widow’s mite can do so with ease.

The public should discard its negative attitudes towards prisoners and ex-prisoners.
Ex-convicts do not need stigmatisation. They rather need social support to help them integrate into their various communities. Some of our prisoners come out with skills and new attitudes that can help them live a successful life without relapsing into criminal behaviour.

The service has qualified artisans who can competently execute projects such as building and construction works, sewing of school uniforms, sewing of uniforms for private security organisations, electrical, plumbing, auto mechanics, etc. People should be encouraged to award contracts to the service to make it financially self-sustaining.

The service plays a critical role by contributing to the maintenance of internal security, safety and safe protection for the public. It, therefore, needs the support of all and sundry.

Abundant Robert K. AWOLUGUTU
Dep. Dir. of Prisons/Regional Commander
Tamale Central Prisons
Cell: 0208 455 296