The Minister for the Interior, Honourable Mark Owen Wayongo, has assured
the Prisons Service of conscious steps being taken by the government to lessen the burden of overcrowding in prisons
as it is of great concern to the government.
He said this at a durbar with Prison Officers organized at the Prisons Headquarters at Cantonments in Accra during his maiden visit. Hon. Wayongo revealed that his office is considering the issue of non-custodial sentencing for minor offences as one of the surest ways to reduce overcrowding in the country’s prisons. He said, ‘If the laws of non - custodial sentences are enacted, it will go a long way to help avoid minor offenders from being contaminated by hardened criminals, and remand prisoners should not be made to spend more than five years in Prisons’. ‘Prisoners sent on remands should be separated from those convicted and serving definite term’, he added.
The Minister also hinted that frantic measures are being taken by the government to provide logistics such as vehicles to enable officers convey prisoners to and from courts, hospital to facilitate any other duties assigned officers.
The Minister advised the Director-General of Prisons, Ms. Matilda Baffour -Awuah, to take advantage of the government’s Public- Private Partnership (PPP) initiative to attract more partners to assist the Service. He also charged officers to bring to bear their knowledge and skills on the training of inmates as is being done in Kumasi for kente weaving, smock and basket weaving in Tamale prisons, so that prisoners can acquire some skills whilst serving their sentences, and be able to reintegrate into society as useful citizens.
The sector Minister revealed that his Ministry is aware that the feeding rate of GH1.80 per prisoner per day is woefully inadequate, and that the Prisons Service is doing well, but needs to go more into agriculture by using the prisoners as source of labor to contribute to their own feeding without solely depending on the government. He also added that, his Ministry will consult the Ministry of Agriculture to acquire machinery such as tractors and other farming tools for Prisons farms.
In his closing remarks, the Minister commended the Director-General for finding solutions to some of the challenges confronting the Service, and applauded her for chalking some successes with the little resources at her disposal. He however advised that, the Prisons must be kept clean to avoid outbreak of diseases, to enable both Officers and Prisoners work and stay in a healthy environment.