Prisons must correct, not kill us!
The gruesome death of two prisoners and the injuring of two other nmates and a prison officer at Kenyaasi in the Eastern region is indeed a regrettable incident.
Many would say it is but one of the numerous accidents we observe as the years go by, however it leaves us with a lot of concerns due to the circumstances that surround it, and as such it would be a good opportunity for us to reflect on safety issues vis-a-vis the treatment of prison inmates in Ghana.
First of all, it is worth noting that even though accidents may occur any way, we still have an opportunity as citizens to reduce its frequency as a way of safeguarding life and property.
What it means is that many lives could be saved by the application of the slightest discretion on the part of authorities.
Was the vehicle designed to take three or eight persons; was the prison service so deprived that they could not afford the right means of transport, and if so what was the cause of that lack? I believe these are some of the questions that would run through many minds for sometime.
It is obvious that most of the times such accidents occur because people refuse to take precautions which results in unnecessary exposure to harm.
In this particular instance, it is certain that the truck could have carried only three persons together with the logs, but standards were not adhered to even by a security service because, most probably, such technical and security breeches have been taken for granted and nothing wrong has occurred until the proverbial “everyday for thief, one day for the master” happened.
It is sadder when it involves men of the Ghana Prisons Service, which is one of the crucial security outfits in the nation. Why would men of such high security training fail to take precautions? But is it their fault; is it not so because they do not have any choice?
Over the past few years, most Ghanaian television stations have been showing footage of very deplorable conditions under which prison inmates live. Some of these clips show tens of people concentrated in one cell and made to sleep, packed like sardine cartons with no space to turn themselves. There are hideous stories of inmates feeding on very low nutritional meals which leaves them with many diseases, etc.
This coupled with the deplorable conditions under which the prison officers work make a supposed correctional centre look more like hell itself here on earth. Under these conditions, prisoners end up coming back into the larger society to create more problems than what took them there.
It is rather sad that after serving so many years in prison with the hope of coming back home, these two inmates met their untimely death due to somebody’s negligence which is made possible by neglect of the Ghanaian prison outfit. If things were normal with the institution; if the officers were well motivated with the availability of adequate transport and other logistics, maybe somebody would have done the right thing by using the right vehicle and maybe we would have been telling a different story today.
It is incumbent on us as a people to ensure that as we strive to develop the larger society, we also know that correctional centres like the prisons are important areas if well resourced would help make our nation free and secured for accelerated development.
The death of these two inmates should be a wake up call for us to reconsider our understanding of what correction is and the need to make our prisons a bit comfortable for those who find themselves there.
By Alexander Nyarko Yeboah