The Minister Information and National Orientation, Mrs. Oboshie Sai Cofie has called upon society not to see prisoners as castaways but an integral part of society. They need the attention and care of the general public if they are to reform for the collective benefit of society. Every effort should be made to integrate them so as to empower them so that after they have finished serving their terms, they can be useful to society.
Mrs. Sai Cofie gave the admonition when she took her novelty media walkabout to the female ward of the Nsawam Medium Security Prisons last week. She noted that her visit was to give her the opportunity to enliven the spirits of the inmates and to bring them up to date with government policy initiatives and interventions.
It was also to drum home the need for all-inclusiveness in nation building, noting that in developing the nation, no part of the citizenry should be left out, no matter the conditions in which they find themselves.
An Assistant Director of Prisons, Mrs. Charity Araba Magnusen, who welcomed and conducted the Minister and her entourage round, said presently, there are 113 inmates in their custody. 73 of them are convicts, 24 are remand prisoners, 3 are there on trial, there is 1 debtor, 6 lifers, one out of court convict, 2 convicts on trial, and 3 condemned prisoners. According to Mrs. Magnusen, the offences for which they were convicted include murder, narcotics, defrauding, stealing, causing damage, causing harm, and soliciting for immoral purposes.
During a tour of the facilities and conditions of the detained prisoners, it came to light that there is a vocational training centre, a mother and baby unit, and a fully air-conditioned IT centre – which is however under resourced. Every bed is also fitted with a mosquito-proof net. The inmates were seen briskly engaged in their vocational activities like cooking, baking, batik tie and dye, among others.
A counseling and religious centre is in place to deal with the prisoners moral and psychological problems. The prison has a 3 acre farm for vegetables and crop plants, as well as an infirmary manned by a qualified medical practitioner.
A representative of the inmates, Kukua, who has been there for almost 20 years, was appreciative of the correctional and vocational measures instituted to reform and empower them for a better living after serving their sentences. She however bemoaned the lack of access to legal aid, poor quality of some of the beds, harsh sentences imposed on people who commit petty crimes, and some aged people who have been given stiffer sentences in hard labour.
Mrs. Sai Cofie promised to confer with her colleague Ministers who have oversight responsibilities for the issues raised, as well as other relevant bodies, agencies, and NGOs to help address their concerns. She made a donation of assorted items to help in the upkeep of the inmates.
The media walk also saw the Minister visiting a skills and development training centre for girls, also at Nsawam. Established in 1992, the Rural Women Skills and Development Foundation offer in health and micro finance among others. It currently has 85 trainees and much of its support comes from churches and church organisations, a German NGO, as well as government agencies like the Department of Social Welfare.
The Minister enjoined the girls to learn hard and be productive to themselves, their community, and the nation. She said National Orientation is also interested in the youth acquiring skills for self advancement.
At the Amasaman chief's palace she took the opportunity to bring to light some of government's pro poor programmes like the NHIS, NYEP, Capitation Grant, etc. She entreated the chiefs and elders to educate their subjects to take full advantage of such initiatives.
The Chief of Amasaman, Nii Amasa, praised the Minister for the visit. He and his elders wanted some of the concerns on some road networks in the district which fell within their jurisdiction addressed. The DCE of the area said some are already being addressed as the roads being referred to had been awarded on contract.
They thanked the government for responding to calls to address their perennial water problems. Nii Amasa said the laying of the pipelines had been completed and that soon, the taps will start flowing.
They also had some concerns regarding the relocation of the people of Sodom and Gomorrah to their end. They called for the necessary groundwork, including the establishment of a police post, to be made before the exercise is undertaken.