Recidivists at the Sunyani Central Prisons are exerting influence on inmates convicted for minor offences and first offenders, Superintendent Stephen Nti, an officer in charge of records at the Prisons has said.
This is because the inmates with minor offences were mixed up and accommodated in the same cell blocks with the hardened criminals including rapists, armed robbers and other criminals serving their sentences for committing first-degree felonies.
Supt. Nti said the situation was worrying because instead of reformation, some inmates become hardened after serving their sentences and are released, went back to commit more serious crimes, and returned to the prisons.
As a reformation facility, the Prison Officer, therefore, underlined the need to improve conditions at the central prison and create separate cell blocks to contain inmates with minor offences and the hardened criminals.
Supt. Nti was speaking in an interview with the Ghana News Agency (GNA) on the side-lines of the stakeholders’ forum on the United States Agency for International Support Development (USAID) Justice Support Activity (JSA) of the Ghana Case Tracking System (CTS) held in Sunyani.
It was attended by representatives from the justice sector institutions including Commission on Human Rights and Administrative Justice (CHRAJ), Legal Aid Commission (LAC), the Police and Prison Service and civil society organisations and actors.
The CTS is integrated software that tracks criminal cases in the justice delivery system from inception until their disposition. Launched in the country in 2018, the CHRI with support from its local partners is implementing the System being funded by USAID.
Supt. Nti noted the Central Prison was confronted with myriads of challenges, including overcrowding, thereby impeding efforts of reforming inmates, saying the Central Prison which was constructed to contain between 400 and 450 inmates now contained more than 900 inmates.
He said records showed that between January and March this year, 238 suspects were convicted and brought to prisons, while only 111 inmates were released for ending their sentences and the figure excluded those on remand.
“These figures show that the challenge of overcrowding continues unabated, and something has to be done to expand the prison,” Supt. Nti indicated.
He said the GhC1.80 feeding fee for inmates daily was woefully inadequate and appealed to the government to increase the feeding fee.
Despite the challenges in the nation’s prisons, Supt, Nti said Ghana’s prison safety was among the best in the world, saying the nation’s prison escape rate was about only two per cent.
Madam Mina Mensah, Director, CHRI, Africa Office took the participants through the Community Sentencing Service Bill and expressed worry that suspects of minor crimes including petty theft, misdemeanours and traffic offences were sometimes convicted and incarcerated to spend years in jail.