A NUMBER of juveniles on remand at the Osu Remand Home and Correctional Centre are going through hell as they wait for the crawling justice system.
The inmates, numbering 31, in a secret conversation with DAILY GUIDE, said they were undergoing very traumatic experiences and that the situation might soon get out of hand if their plight was not addressed.
Frustration was written on their faces as they recounted their ordeal which appears to be part of their daily routine.
Some of them, contrary to the law, had been detained at the home for several years without trial as their fate remains unknown to them.
The boys, aged between 12 and 21 were taken to the home for various offences including murder, defilement, theft and narcotics related cases.
They claimed they lived not only in an unhygienic cell but had also not been given any form of apprenticeship or training, giving them a cause to worry about their future as they might not find their lives worth living when they are finally released.
Unable to bear the situation at the home any longer, 11 of the inmates had within the last two months managed to escape from custody in broad daylight and after a hot chase only two were caught.
Some of the officers at the home, touched by the children's plight, confirmed the reports to DAILY GUIDE and made mention of the pathetic case of one of the boys brought to the home as a murder suspect as far back as November 3, 2004, when he was only 17.
The officers said though his case had not been looked into, the boy had spent over three years in detention and was now an adult aged 21.
He was said also to be a form two student when he was brought to the home and for the past three years had neither been able to continue his education nor learnt any trade or vocation.
The officers disclosed that what was happening at the home was an illegality and an abuse of the children's rights because Article 46 of the Juvenile Justice Act 2003 states that when a juvenile or young offender is ordered to be sent to a centre, the detention period shall not exceed three months for a juvenile offender under the age of 16 and six months for a junior offender of or above 16 years but under 18 years.
The law states also that a young offender of or above the age of 18 years shall not spend more than 24 months at the home and when the alleged crime is a 'serious offence', the maximum period shall not exceed three years.
“In this case, the boy has not been granted bail, has not even been tried to be pronounced guilty yet he has spent over three years here. There are other boys here who have similar cases and are not being tried, yet have spent years here. One can only expect that they grow to have a hatred for society and think everybody is against them,” an officer indicated.
DAILY GUIDE (DG) had the following interview with some of the boys on remand (BR).
DG: So where do you sleep?
BR: The room in which we sleep in is like a cell.
DG: Do you have beds there?
BR: Yes we have beds there right now.
DG: How many are you?
BR: We are 31 in one room.
DG: Is the room neat?
BR: No. We eat, sleep and do everything in the room. Maybe one of us is eating and someone may go to private and the scent would come into the room and sometimes when you are asleep, others would be fighting and shouting. Sometime ago we had rashes all over our bodies, including our private parts because there are bed bugs and other insects in the room.
DG: And are you learning any job or in any apprenticeship or in any form of school?
BR: No, no, no. They bring people to counsel us and sometimes some pastors come and preach to us. We have a classroom where we go to learn but they teach us things like how to say ABC and 123. Some of the inmates have not been in school so at times some volunteers come and teach us.
DG: These things you learn, are they helpful in any way?
BR: No. Most of us are above that kind of ABCD and those things and it is like we are worrying our brains when we learn some of these things. ABDC is not helping us now.
DG: So what is the future like for you?
BR: I do not know because I am growing and some of us do not know how long we would be here and if no one speaks for our case to be looked into then we would just remain here.
DG: So do you miss home?
BR: Very, very much. I remember my friends, my brothers and sisters, my schoolmates, my church mates. I miss them a lot. When I was free I could go everywhere I wanted; I could go to church. But here they are sitting on my joy, my freedom and everything and some of us do not know how long we would be here before a judge pronounces a sentence on us.
But surprisingly, authorities of the Social Welfare were not ready to comment on the issue. The officers directly in charge of the Osu Remand Home said they were not ready to make any comment and directed DAILY GUIDE to contact the Regional Head of Social Welfare.
Officers at the regional office in turn directed the paper to their national office, with an explanation that the Regional Director was not around and no other officer was in the position to comment on the issue.
The Social Welfare Director, Mary Amadu, was also doggy about commenting on the matter, asking the paper to return in a week's time.
Prior to that, Mrs. Amadu, thinking the reporter did not understand Ga, had told her Secretary in the Ga language that though she was not prepared to talk to any DAILY GUIDE reporter on any issue she should allow the reporter in for her to have a look at him. When the reporter was allowed in, Mrs. Amadu charged on him: “Look, young man, you can see I am busy. I am having a meeting and that smile on your face cannot change anything because I would not talk to you. What do you want?”
A 'good afternoon madam' response further infuriated Mrs. Amadu, as she almost walked the reporter out of her office. After she had been told what the issue was, Mrs. Amadu rubbished it as a no-issue and said the reporter should return in a week's time for her response.
Another lady, who was in the room with Mrs. Amadu, said she was directly in charge of the said home and that the issues were true but measures had been put in place to solve them. They refused to answer any other questions and insisted the reporter should leave.
In a later interview with Ebenezer Amarbio Amarterfio, Regional Director of Social Welfare, who did not deny any of the issues raised, said the Social Welfare could not be blamed.
Mr. Amarteifio said that was not the first time some of the minors had escaped from the home but anytime there was a breakout, the various police stations handling their cases were immediately notified.
He said the home had very limited resources thus it was not easy handling such large number of suspected teenage deviants.
The Director said he was also aware that contrary to the law some of the children had not been sentenced by any court and had grown into adulthood while on remand at the home and pathetically, they were not learning any trade or vocation. “We are professionals and know our job but have been restrained by financial problems.”
Mr. Amarteifio mentioned that apart from not being able to give the inmates any form of vocational or technical training, feeding them was a major problem and that the situation could get out of hand.
He disclosed that the total amount of money made availably to the Department of Social Welfare in the whole Greater Accra Region for the next three months was GH¢ 1100 (11 million old Ghana Cedi).
Pix. Saved in Halifax' picture folder as 'Some of the remand boys of the Osu Remand Home carrying gallons of water to the home'
By Halifax Ansah-Addo