On Monday, 26 June 2023, Media Without Borders published a Ghana Prisons Service story with an “embarrassing” video the Akufo-Addo Government reportedly wishes could be withdrawn from circulation.
The video shows prison officers and inmates of the Navrongo Central Prisons jam-packed together in the bucket of a police-owned pickup outside the prison yard, waiting to be conveyed to a distant court of law in the Upper East Region’s capital, Bolgatanga.
An undercover journalist is said to have zoomed in on the vehicle from a distance, capturing a piece of evidence that exposes government’s failure to ensure the safety of prison officers and apparent disregard for the rights of prison inmates.
But seven prison officers, Media Without Borders learns, currently are facing trial at the Navrongo Central Prisons, pending severe penalties, for failing to cordon off the facility’s premises to prevent the video from being taken.
The Minister for the Interior, Ambrose Dery, is said to have directed that the officers be tried and, if found liable, punished.
Despite the seven under-pressure officers reportedly telling the trial panel that they know nothing about the video, the trial is in progress.
In June, 2023, a number of prison officers complained to Media Without Borders that the Navrongo Central Prisons, for lack of its own vehicles, had been riskily transporting inmates to courts and health facilities on public means of transportation.
“Sometimes, we hire taxis. Sometimes, we wait at the mercy of police officers who are coming for their remand prisoners to join them.
“There is no single vehicle you can point at and say this is a Navrongo Central Prisons car, a bus, or whatever. If we are to come to court here, to bring prisoners, it’s a serious matter,” they said in June, 2023.
And while enumerating a number of challenges prison personnel were facing nationwide, the officers also said government was deliberately denying the Navrongo Central Prisons and the entire Ghana Prisons Service the same attention accorded to other state security agencies in the country.
The neglect, they warned, posed serious risks to the Ghanaian public.
“Go to the Navrongo Central Prisons and see the dilapidated structures we are living in. We are staying in rented apartments we call barracks. They are huts that look like animal pens. That is where prison officers are staying with their families.
“The regional commander, who is ADP, that is Assistant Director of Prisons, currently cannot sometimes [attend] REGSEC meetings for lack of transportation,” they stated further.
And continuing, they added: “Just recently, a prisoner fell sick. Do you know how he was transported to the War Memorial Hospital? We transported that prisoner to the hospital with the motor-king (a motorised tricycle with a bucket) that was donated to the Navrongo Central Prisons by the Paramount Chief of Navrongo.”
Subsequently, a number of officers, who were suspected to be among those who complained to Media Without Borders, faced a disciplinary committee under the instruction of government officials.
Several observers have described the trials as “unfair” and “unreasonable”.
The prison’s authorities confirmed seven officers were facing charges in relation to the matter but have not said anything further on it since Media Without Borders contacted them about a week ago.
The Minister for the Interior did not respond when Media Without Borders contacted him Monday for his comments.
Source: Edward Adeti/Media Without Borders/mwbonline.org