One hundred and eighty officers of the Ghana Prisons Service have undergone a two-day human rights training to equip them with standard minimum rules for the treatment of prisoners in their custody.
It is also to help protect persons in detention from torture or other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment.
The training, which is one of the British High Commission’s support for the service, was organised at the British Council in Accra in six batches. Each batch comprised thirty officers, who were drawn from prisons establishments.
Speaking during the closing ceremony of the programme, the head of Political and Communications at the British High Commission in Accra, Mr. Anuup Vyas, said his outfit was delighted to have provided the training for the officers as part of capacity building to enhance their work.
He said, ‘with this training, you are peers of the United kingdom (UK) when it comes to human rights, because the standards are the same, and you will be expected to practice them in your respective areas of work, and improve your human rights standards’.
Mr. Anuup noted that the participants were the next generation of trainers, as other officers will be looking up to them. He said the UK is incredibly committed to the peace and security in Ghana, and will stand by her on criminal justice matters which is an important part of the rule of law.
The Chief Director of the Ministry of Interior, Madam Adelaide Anno-Kumi, who represented the Interior Minister during the ceremony in a speech thanked the British government for the great support it continues to give the Ghana Prisons Service which includes the training.
She said the government of Ghana holds human rights practice key in its democratic environment, and this is spelt out in Chapter 5 of its 1992 Republican Constitution.
She was of the firm belief that the training will go a long way to enhance prisons management in the country, especially as the nation moves towards enhancing its correctional facilities.
The Chief Director said the respect for human right is really key to the reconditioning of the mind of prisoners, since upon their release, they will find themselves in the same communities they once lived in, and have to reintegrate seamlessly. She said prisoners do not have to face any stigmatisation which will result in them ending up in reoffending.
‘I wish to entreat the officers who have benefitted from the training programme to act as trainer of trainers in their respective prison establishments, and share the knowledge acquired with other officers’, she stated.
The Director-General of Prisons, Mr. Patrick Darko Missah, who also graced the occasion in a speech thanked the British High Commission for bringing the training to the doorstep of his officers. He indicated that the Service already has human rights lessons in its curriculum at the training school, and efforts are far advanced to add paralegal studies as well.
He called on the course participant to apply the training they have received at their respective stations, and ensure that no prisoner is subjected ttorture or degrading treatment, so as to enhance the Service’s human rights credentials.
In order to get more support for the Prisons Service, the Director-General said, ‘I want to use this opportunity to challenge corporate Ghana, other organisations, and embassies to get involved in the quest to improving the conditions of prisons across the country, as government alone cannot do it’.
The Director of Prisons in charge of Finance and Administration and head of the Prisons Transformational Taskforce, Mr. Stephen Cofie, in a remark intimated that, ‘I trust that the training has been worthwhile, and strongly believe officers have been well equipped to put this knowledge into good use’.
He said It was the desire of the Service to have more officers trained in both paralegal and human rights, and as the face of the Service is about to change, it will only be right and proper for the Service to start thinking of training officers in the areas of probation and parole before an Act of Parliament promulgated.
Interviews with some of the course participants indicated that they were happy to have benefitted from the programme, as it has enhanced their human rights knowledge, and thanked the Prisons Administration for it. They however suggested that in the future, such trainings must be organised at regional levels, so that more officers can benefit from it.
Some of the topics covered during the training included Human Rights in Prisons, Introduction to Human Rights, Human Rights in Africa, Prisoners’ Human Rights and Prison management Accountability.
The rest were the Mandela Rules, Communication, Needs and Rights, Corruption, Reception into Prison, Foreign National Prisoners, Searching, Complaints and Investigating Allegations of Torture.
At the end of the ceremony, which was facilitated by Axiom UK International, the officers were issued with certificates of participation.
The British government is currently aiding the Ghana Prisons Service to improve its conditions in certain critical areas which include building capacity of officers (60 officers have already been trained in paralegal studies), improving health care delivery of prisoners at the Nsawam prisons, refurbishing and improving the conditions of Ankaful Main Camp and Annex prisons.
It is also helping in the decongestion of the Nsawam Medium Security Prison by the creation of a high court in the prison to facilitate expeditious trial of remand cases, besides serving as an appellate court to inmates convicted and sentenced by lower courts.
The British government is also assisting in the safe and humane transportation of prisoners through the provision of prisoner conveyance buses, and the electronic management of inmates’ data.