Six babies in Ghana Prisons
The Ghana Prisons Service has embarked on a programme to rid adult prisons of juveniles who were sentenced to imprisonment into adult prisons and to keep babies out of prison.
Currently, there are no known juveniles in adult prisons. Since under a 2000-2002 on-going programme eight juveniles have been transferred from adult prisons to the Ghana Borstal institute while nine others have been released from jail.
Dr. Kwame Addo-Kufuor, Minister for Defence and Acting Minister for the Interior told Parliament on Wednesday, whiles answering a question by Mr. Joseph Tsatsu Agbenu, NDC-Afram Plains North as to whether all juvenile convicts in adult prisons have been transferred to borstal institutes and what plans the ministry had to renovate and expand the existing facilities of the institutes.
The Minister said six babies were in prison because their mothers were serving various prison terms. Two of the mothers were in prison for murder while the other four had been convicted for relatively minor offences such as stealing cloth, necklaces and beads.
Dr Addo-Kufuor said it was the government's determination to keep babies out of prison since they could not be held responsible for crimes committed by their mothers. As an interim measure, the ministry was in contact with the Attorney General's Department to consider recommending the possible granting of amnesty by the President to the four mothers.
Dr Addo-Kufuor said even though the issue of babies in prison was an emotive one, it had legal dimensions which needed to be carefully ironed out by the appropriate authorities. He was hopeful that the unfortunate situation would cease to exist in the society.
He said the various Supervising High Court Judges have also been approached about juveniles being tried in regular courts instead of juvenile courts and from the year 2000 some of the judges have reviewed the sentences imposed upon juveniles by adult courts and ordered their release from prison.
Dr. Addo-Kufuor said the only Borstal Institute located at Roman Ridge in Accra where juvenile offenders between the ages of 14 and 17 years were detained for three years for re-training and re-orientation.
Apart from skill training, which is taught, leading to the award of the National Vocational Training Institute Certificate, juveniles there had Junior and Senior secondary school education. Dr Addo-Kufuor said the Institute was not purposefully built for its roles and it is presently under utilised.
He said the present location was unsuitable for its purpose and mentioned that there were plans to relocate the institute outside the centre of Accra where modern workshops and schools would be constructed and equipped.
Mr Joseph Emmanuel Ackah, NDC-Jomoro asked what interim measures were being adopted to solve the problem since the early childhood years of the juvenile were crucial to his upbringing.
The Minister said his outfit was concerned about the trauma and such babies would be helped to move out of the prisons. Alhaji Amadu Ali, NDC- Atebubu South asked the whether the ministry would consider paying compensation to children who were mistakenly convicted to adult prisons.
Dr Addo-Kufuor said such a possibility has not been considered and it was for the legal authorities to advice on what to do. Mrs Edith Hazel, NDC- Evalue-Gwira asked what measures were being addressed concerning juveniles who were sentenced to imprisonment into adult prisons.
The Minister said the Prisons Council was much concerned about the situation but the reasons for their being sent to prisons were complex since some vary their ages for stiffer sentences for less ones while others are also misadvised to reduce their ages.
Mr J.H. Mensah, Senior Minister and NPP MP-Sunyani East said the government was not liable for juveniles being sent to adult prisons and said it was the duty of the Attorney General to advise on what steps to be taken. Ms Akua Sena Dansua, NDC-North Dayi asked whether the babies were born in prison or outside it.
The Minister said the question was a delicate one since there is no proven answer as to whether conception took place before the sentence or after and said there was presently a six-week old baby with the mother in prison but could not tell when conception took place.
Dr. Mustapha Ahmed, NDC- Ayawaso East asked the minister whether since the Borstal Institute was under-utilised, the ministry would consider admitting delinquent children to benefit from the various training programmes there, to which the Minister said the Institute was penal one and would not encourage innocent children to be admitted there.