SPEECH BY ACP ABUNDANT ROBERT K. AWOLUGUTU ON THE OCCASION OF HIS SENDOFF CEREMONY HELD AT THE PRISONS CANTEEN, WA ON FRIDAY 2 MAY, 2014.
Mr Chairman, invited guests, fellow commanders, officers of Wa Central Prisons, our friends from the media, ladies and gentlemen, it is with a heavy heart that I give this sendoff speech today. Parting company with friends and loved ones has always been a difficult situation to contend with. However, I take consolation from 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18 which says, “Be joyful always; pray continually; give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God's will for you in Christ Jesus.”
Martin Luther King Jr.(1929-1968) said, “If a man is called to be a street sweeper, he should sweep streets even as Michelangelo painted, or Beethoven composed music, or Shakespeare wrote poetry. He should sweep streets so well that all the hosts of heaven and earth will pause to say, here lived a great street sweeper who did his job well.”
I took over the Regional Command of the Ghana Prisons Service in the Upper West Region in October, 2012. I had to build on the legacies of my predecessor and initiate my own projects and programmes and provide the necessary leadership that would enable me achieve my dreams and goals. My vision is not different from the vision of the Ghana Prisons Service: safe custody, welfare, reformation and rehabilitation of our prison inmates.
Certain institutional programmes to address the offending behavior of inmates and to facilitate their integration into free society after discharge received serious attention by my administration. Non Formal classes were organized for deserving inmates. We have a Reformation Junior High School and Reformation Senior High School in the prison. Thirty-six (36) inmates have enrolled for the non formal classes, twelve inmates are in the Reformation Junior High School while eight inmates are in the Reformation Senior High School.
Facilitators for the programmes were drawn internally ie our own officers and seven National Service personnel were also brought in based on a formal request to augment the staff strength of the school. These education programmes have been vigorously pursued despite the numerous challenges we have encountered.
Trade Training For Inmates
Trade skills training have received much attention by my administration. The station operates weaving and tailoring shops to give trade skills training to interested inmates. It is refreshing to note that, last year two/2 inmates took part in the National Vocational and Technical Institute (NVTI) exams in weaving and tailoring and passed with distinction.
This year we have registered two/2 inmates to write the NOV/DEC WASSCE exams and hope they will come out with flying colours. Their registration was made possible by an appeal to the Honourable Regional Minister to assist us in this direction. The fund was provided by the Municipal Assembly. We are indeed grateful to the Regional Coordinating Council and the Municipal Assembly for supporting our efforts to give our unfortunate brothers in the prison a future.
Operation Feed Yourself
The station has a farm at Bayiri which is about 30 km from the Wa Business Centre. Crops such as maize, beans and vegetables were cultivated to complement the efforts of government in feeding the inmates. The station also has a vegetable garden behind the prison where fresh vegetables such as garden eggs, okra, tomatoes, cabbage and allefu are produced throughout the year to supplement and enrich the diet of the inmates. The farming project enables prisoners to learn modern techniques of farming which helps them when they go on discharge. It is also important to state that the education project and trade skills training were designed to assist inmates acquire relevant skills that are necessary for integration into free society.
Since inmates are a vulnerable group, we try our best to give them humane treatment in line with international standards and modern penal practice. To this end, administration submitted a proposal to the Medical Director, Wa Regional Hospital for a medic to come to the prison and consult and provide quality healthcare to both inmates and staff. I am happy to announce that a medic has been assigned to the prison. The Regional Director of Ghana Health Service was very supportive of our efforts in this regard; we are very grateful to him and the Medical Director of the Wa Regional Hospital.
We have registered our inmates with the NHIA to enable them access healthcare free of charge.
Generally officer-inmate relationship is a good one at the Wa Central Prison. We do not maltreat our prisoners. We treat them with the dignity they deserve as human beings. We make the rules known to them for compliance. Inmates who flout our rules are dealt with in accordance with prison service rules and regulations.
Since imprisonment creates a stressful situation for both inmates and officers, my administration has put together a Counselling Committee of experts to help officers and inmates who may be experiencing heartbreaking challenges and other stressful conditions.
Welfare Needs of Officers
On assumption of duty, a Room Search Committee headed by Head of Technical Service was formed to search for decent accommodation for officers. It is refreshing and heartwarming to note that, with the exception of a few, most officers have been well accommodated. But that is not to say that there haven't been challenges in that regard. Administration has often come under harassment from landlords for unpaid rent running into months or even years.
A number of welfare packages have been instituted to help officers address their financial challenges. We have a Benevolent Fund to help officers meet their financial needs. “Susu” is encouraged among the officers. These welfare schemes have prevented my officers from going to shylock money lenders.
Human Resource Development
We live in a modern technical world where ICT technologies have become indispensable. My administration organized ICT training for both staff and inmates. Officers paid from their pockets for the training. The good news is that almost all my staff are computer literates.
Additionally, administration thought it proper and fitting to organize Communication Skills course for officers since it is a tool of empowerment. I wish to encourage my staff to register and pay the required amount to enable the handout to be printed for the commencement of the programme.
Medical experts say stress can lead to death if it is not well managed. Administration has therefore decided to institute a relaxation and recreational programme dubbed “Happy Hour” to enable officers to come together and socialize in order to reduce or bring stress to the barest minimum. The Happy Hour is a quarterly event to enable officers to refresh themselves and to keep them physically great.
The padre hour has been revived. This is the time officers come together to worship God. From our church contributions we have been able to purchase some public address system and musical instruments which make our worship time enjoyable.. We also use such occasions to read and explain circulars from prisons Headquarters to staff. Durbars are regularly held to discuss vital issues affecting our welfare.
Prison Officers Wives Association (PROWA)
This association which had gone dormant has been revived by my administration. The association is gaining popularity among our wives and plans are underway to give them skills training in batik tie and dye, soap making, food processing with which they can make a decent living to support their husbands and families.
Prison Officers Children Association (POCA)
The welfare of our children has also engaged the attention of my administration. We have therefore brought them together to form POCA to enable them support one another in terms of studies and other welfare related issues. This association is under the supervision of an experienced prison officer who is also the son of an officer.
It was Althea Gibson who said, “No matter what accomplishment you make, someone helped you.” Whatever I have achieved was made possible because of the support I received from others. I want to take this opportunity to express my profound gratitude to the Controller –General of Prisons for being supportive of my efforts to serve both the inmates and officers. I also want to acknowledge the tremendous support I received from the Regional Coordinating Council, the Municipal authorizes, distinguished REGSEC members and many other friends too numerous to mention here.
I want to thank the entire staff for giving me the needed support and cooperation which had made me chalk some successes at the station. It is my humble prayer that staff would give the same level of cooperation to my successor.
Finally, I want to use this occasion to thank everyone who has graced this occasion with their presence. God richly bless you.
Abundant Robert K. AWOLUGUTU
ASST. CONT. OF PRISONS/REGIONAL COMMANDER
GHANA PRISONS SERVICE