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Sat, 24 Jul 2010 Feature Article

How can they have their life back?

How can they have their life back?
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It is an undisputed fact that all especially those who are victims of a crime demand justice of a crime committed against them. And for that matter, justice denied will cause a cry of foul. Therefore, it is more or less compensating when a victim's offender is given the right punishment for crime committed.

It is good that one is given the appropriate punishment for a crime committed but the purpose of this article is not to talk of punishments but rather to talk about assisting offenders of society to learn a lesson out of their punishment which will help transform them from committing another criminal acts. This will be by giving back to them their precious lives (that is giving them the opportunity to acquire a skill which will help them depend on their own or help keep them busy from committing another crime) after they have served their punishment (which on regular accounts of serious crimes take the form of imprisonment).

Punishment is supposed to straighten one's moral life, neither should it on any account harden one in his or her crime nor worsen their moral condition, as it is the situation now in the country. There are instances where some of the prisoners in the various prisons are there on their second, third or even fourth time. This is due to the fact that the prison system in the country is more concerned with making offenders serve their punishment than transforming them. Besides that, after one is been punished (imprisoned) he or she is tagged by society as a misfit hence seek to have nothing to do with him or her and this act makes the person's ego trampled on. Society do not want to involve ex-convicts in their business as well as entrusting things, not even the least of it, into their care. The transformation we could not assist them go through, during their punishment, coupled with awkward perceptions we hold against them, cause us to act in a way that seem to re-punish them for a crime they have already been punished for. This is unfair.

Neglected as they are, coupled with thoughts of not been dealt with fairly, sows seeds of hatred (for the society) in them. These compel them to form gangs or rejoin bad company hence engaging in another crime which obviously demands another punishment. However, it is a threat to society when one punished of a crime is not transformed but rather made to develop detestation during or after punishment, hence, leaving the country's method of rehabilitating offenders, to be a poser to be solved.

To remedy this problem, prison should have health persons and psychiatrists to be précised who will prepare inmates psychologically before they begin their sentence in order to prevent them from having any psychological trauma due to the stress that might be on them on hearing that they are imprisoned (which may be a treat to themselves or to society on their release). The presence of these psychiatrists in prison to regularly interact with inmates will help foster their rehabilitation. A strict system to be put in place to enable meetings of inmates with psychiatrists can be extended to few months or years after their release to serve as a warranted therapy to help inmates deal with the stress that might be on them due to the new social status they have as well as serve as a means through which lifestyle in their various societies can be monitored. These meetings can also be used as an orientation for inmates to serve as a guide for them in their quest of assimilating into fast-changing societies.

Also, a lot can be done to help them enrich their lives to help their various societies by providing them with a means whereby they can learn a trade while in prison (of which the income derived would be kept in the country's coffers to aid nation building). They should also be giving the opportunity to be trained on how to transform their experience in prison into powerful messages which can be stored in mediums such as books, recorded tapes, etc which can be used as a teaching aid, which will help educate the youth on the outcome of crime as well as daunt them from crime. This training can even help them to form a group (after their release) such as that of “People living with AIDS” to empower themselves as well as to enable task themselves to advise the youth on desisting from crime.

In conclusion, there is the precept that inmates deserve whatever bad thing they go through in prison, which is, making us indifferent about how dangerous to society these bad conditions can groom them to be. All that matters to us is that they are serving the punishment they are sentenced to and for that matter deserves nothing good. But the question is have we ever put into thought the thousands of Cedis the nation spend on the administration of the various prisons in the country annually, at the expense of, the nations' pressing sectors and demands? Hence the wastage of scarce resource if not at least inmates are rehabilitated (not forgetting of additional resources which has to be used to maintain security for not rehabilitating these particular inmate in question). One thing we should also know is that, a developing country striving to develop as ours would need every single pesewa of each resource it has and capable of producing to enable it make a move towards its goal. However, is there not a cause to correct the social deviance of inmates by giving them another starting point (after serving their punishment) to enable them contribute their quota to the nations' development than rather doing otherwise? In essence, the burning question to pose is that how can they (prison inmates) have their life restored to normalcy? They need to be mainstreamed in the development path of the country. Ghana ought to act now to have a complete dream of growth and development.

The author, Dominic Osei Boakye is at the Department of Economics, Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology, Kumasi-Ghana. (Email: [email protected])

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