When prison doors are shut behind offenders, tears roll down cheeks of the meek and mighty due to uncertainty of what the next moment holds.
During prisoner admission process, offenders are asked to mention their offences. Most, in the process of telling their stories break down in tears. Tears, not only of regret, but also of the unknown. The admitting officer is required to explain to the newly admitted prisoner prison regulations as well as opportunities available in their new environment. Reformation and rehabilitation modules are introduced to the prisoner at this point.
After a period of careful profiling, prisoners are attached to available trade learning paths that best suit them. Though most of these workshops are in make-shift structures, they help in instilling in the inmate the work ethic required to support their reintegration into society upon discharge.
Highlighted in this piece are some prison industries which require support from government and public-spirited organizations and individuals to turn Ghana’s prisons into massive manufacturing and agricultural hubs.
Agricultural activities remain an integral component of the operations of Ghana Prisons Service. Apart from the nine agricultural Camp Prisons, all other prison establishments are engaged in some form of agriculture especially vegetable cultivation to supplement inmate ration.
The service, though deficient in the area of farm machinery and input, has over the years achieved some gains in the field of agriculture.
According to the 2013 Annual Report, the service cultivated a total of 1,136 acres of land. Crops farmed included maize, rice, groundnut, cowpea, oil palm, cocoa, cashew and mango. Root tubers like yam and cassava as well as assorted vegetables were also cultivated. With a total expenditure of GH¢171,851.57, the service raked in revenue amounting to GH¢462,558.69 translating to GH¢290,706.94 of profit.
Apparel and textile industries
Most prisons have tailoring shops where some inmates go through professional training in tailoring. The sewing of officers’ as well as inmates’ uniforms are done in these workshops, with trained inmates playing a major role. This reduces the burden on the prison administration as there is no need to hand out sewing contracts to private companies. In 2011 for example, the service was contracted by KNUST and the Judicial Service to sew uniforms for their security men, a proof of the quality of work of our inmates. The Sekondi, Ankaful Main Camp, Tamale and Ho Prisons are into ‘Kente’ and ‘Batakari’ production. The quality of our products was highlighted again at the launch of Project Efiase in June 2015 when most of the products exhibited were purchased before the programme could end.
Shoe making factories
The Kumasi Central and James Camp Prisons operate shoe making factories. These factories have over the years produced shoes and other footwear, though on a small scale, for purchase by officers of the service. The quality of footwear produced competes with brands on the market as they continually receive positive reviews from customers. The factory at James Camp Prison for instance is on record to have manufactured shoes for the just commissioned officer cadets of the service.
Though most prisons in Ghana have carpentry shops, the Nsawam Medium Security, Kumasi Central and Ankaful Prison Annex specialize in the production of upholstery for purchase by officers and the general public. Most prisons have their office furniture produced by inmates. With expert supervision from officers serving as trade instructors, our inmates come out with very durable products.
The Service has a construction team made up of officers and inmates from prison establishments across the country. This team is on record to have constructed a two-storey dormitory block for Odorgono Senior High School and a multi-purpose sports court for St. Thomas Aquinas Senior High School.
The truth is, contracting prison labour and expertise for any construction work is far cheaper than contracting private individuals or companies.
OthersOther industries of note include, tie and dye, door-mat, auto-mechanic and electrical, ceramics, sculpture, soap making, blacksmithing etc.
The need for support
There is an urgent need for prison industries to be appropriately resourced as Ghana stands to gain. Apart from offering inmates employable skills thereby reducing reoffending, the burden on government as regards subventions to the Ghana Prisons Service is likely to reduce as the service would be able to fund most, if not all, of its programmes and policies.
With the right machinery and support, these industries can supply footwear and uniforms to security agencies as well as upholstery and assorted furniture for use in public offices. Government and private organizations should engage the services of inmates for building projects as prison labour is less expensive.
With government’s flagship programme, Planting for Food and Jobs in force, the service should be resourced adequately to feed not only inmates of our facilities, but also, Senior High Schools in their catchment areas.
The exploits of our inmates confirm Dr. Mensah Otabil’s quote in one of his sermons that “No matter what prison you are in, nobody can imprison your power of imagination”.
By DSP Daniel Machator|3news.com|Ghana|
The writer is the Central Regional Public Relations Officer of the Ghana Prisons Service