Justice Henrietta Mensah-Bonsu, a Supreme Court Judge, says the recruitment of properly skilled personnel into the Ghana Prisons Service (GPS) would help in the implementation of prison reforms.
She said it was therefore crucial to focus on proper planning to ensure that the needs of personnel were appropriately satisfied during recruitment.
“The absence of properly skilled personnel to implement enlightened regimes cannot be brushed aside. Even if prisons were provided with all the money they required, much of it would go to waste without the necessary personnel,” she said.
Madam Mensah-Bonsu made the comments during the launch of a Book titled: “Transformation of Prisons Service in Africa“ authored by Dr Richard Kuuire, former Director-General, GPS in Accra.
She said the inability to improve conditions in prisons had a bearing on the economic conditions of any country.
The Justice of the Supreme Court said overcrowding in prisons remained a major problem everywhere in Africa and more so in post conflict countries.
“Courts are overwhelmed by the sheer number of cases requiring attention. In addition to these, the slow pace of investigations sometimes occasioned by inadequate police personnel, slow pace of trials all contribute to overcrowding by pre-trial detainees.”
“No transformation will be possible if the multi-faceted problems are not holistically addressed. Issues of inadequate infrastructure remain serious as Governments have to choose between building of schools and prisons,” she said.
Dr Richard Kuuire noted that prison reforms were not about having beautiful prison structures, but rather, about the treatment of prisoners, their livelihoods after imprisonment, humane treatment of prisoners and respecting their human rights while in prison.
He said prison reforms also meant adequately preparing and equipping prisoners for re-entry into society after serving their sentences to reduce crime in communities.
The author said prisoners should be perceived as “sick” people who had been taken to the hospital, which in their case was the prison.
He recommended that various criminal justice institutions should consider using his book as a source book for prison officers training at all levels.
Dr Kuuire also said they should create space for the use of the book in training of new judges and magistrates and continuous training of judges, lawyers, police and social workers at all levels.
He said it was necessary for the criminal justice system to work together in a coordinated way.
Most Reverend Peter Paul Yelezuome Angkyier, Chairman, Prisons Service Council, said the mandate of the GPS can be accomplished through good leadership, with a passionate commitment to the development of the Service.
He said the Prisons needed policies that would define the type of physical and administrative structures, management practices and systems, health systems of inmates, recruitment, training, man-power planning, procedures and processes, which should be put in place to ensure efficiency and effectiveness.
“This must however represent the noblest ideals of the profession as well as just to be specific historical times in which we are, keeping in mind the best practices or modules which enhance work practice and professionalism,” he added.