Minister of the Interior Ambrose Dery has hinted of the possibility of legislative reforms and policy review to reduce the duration of custodial sentencing.
“We need to reduce the time people stay in prison,” he said, adding that something also needed to be done about pre-trial detention.
Mr Dery, who was addressing officers of the Ghana Prisons Service in Accra yesterday, said that was necessary to ensure that the service moved in a more modern direction.
The minister was at the Prisons Headquarters to familiarise himself with what went on in the service and also to interact with the officers to find out what their concerns were and how to address them.
He also used the opportunity to tour the various departments at the head office of the service.
Mr Dery, who was accompanied by his deputy, Mr Henry Quartey, called on the officers to partner the ministry to achieve the move to reduce the duration of pre-trial detention and custodial sentencing.
He said even though the Justice for All intervention was in place, “it can only ameliorate the situation”, and stressed the need to collaborate with the Office of the Attorney-General and the Judiciary.
He tasked prison officers to ensure that persons convicted and handed over to them by the courts came out better than they were when they went in.
He said the service needed to reform the inmates, so that they could fit into society after they had served their custodial sentences.
The minister commended the service for taking various bold steps and initiatives to improve the conditions in the service and also operate in a more modern way.
Quest for modernisation
Welcoming the minister, the acting Director-General of the service, Mr Patrick Darko Missah, said the quest for modern and best practices in correctional management had caused a total evolution of the functions of the service.
“As such, the thought of merely warehousing prisoners has given way to a more vibrant pursuit to reform and rehabilitate them while they are still in custody.
“Apart from that, strenuous efforts have been put in place to offer inmates the needed support that will enable them to reintegrate into society upon their release from prison,” he told the minister.
He said only 5,377 prison officers nationwide were manning 13,036 inmates, saying, “It is obvious that the officers are reeling under extreme stress in managing the relatively higher number of inmates.”
Mr Missah was grateful that the government had approved the recruitment of 40 officer cadets and 500 recruits, saying that when they graduated in about three months, they would augment the existing low staff strength.
Taking the minister through the state of the Ghana Prisons Service, the Director of Prisons in charge of Operations and Agriculture, Mr S.K.B. Rabbles, announced that the service had developed a 10-year strategic plan, spanning 2015 to 2025, which sought to rebrand the service.
He said the plan would also leverage the agricultural and industrial wings of the service for income generation and also assist prisoners to improve upon their values through reformation and rehabilitation.