Prison upkeep does not hold a high ranking on the Ghanaian national budget list and the Ghanaian government has yet to make overcrowded prisons a thing of the past due to the lack of attention and focus being given to the problem. This young democracys’ budget includes plans of fiscal and economic growth, allowing little room for prison upkeep and in turn leaving the conditions of Ghanaian prisons and inmates in the dark. In 2009, the Ghanaian Prison Service estimated 31 million cedi (18.7 million US dollars) was necessary in order to maintain a functional prison system, however the amount that the Ghanaian government allotted the Ghanaian Prison Service was barely half of what was needed. Only 16 million cedi (9.7 million US dollars) was allocated for the Ghanaian Prison Service to carry out their “core functions” that include the safe custody of prisoners, the welfare of prisoners and reformation and rehabilitation of prisoners.
Though remand prisoners remain a huge problem within the Ghanaian prison system, there has been slight improvement with the implementation of the Justice for All program, which was put into place in 2007. This brought judges into the prisons to hear the cases of remand prisoners instead of taking the time and expenditure to conduct a formal court hearing. The Justice for All program allowed the judges to hear the cases of long awaiting remand prisoners within the prison walls and decide the prisoners fait—whether the prisoner should be acquitted of all charges and released, convicted of the crime, or given bail. In one instance during the month of August in 2011, through the Justice for All program a judge heard the cases of 139 remand prisoners and of 139 prisoners: 59 were release and acquitted of charges, 46 were granted bail, nine of the prisoners applications were dismissed, seven cases were to be heard again, and only 11 were convicted.
I really liked reading the numbers here, it was a great example of how many people do not need to remain in custody for long periods of time.
A brief outline of my paper:
The Importance of Due Process
Excess Remand Prisoners
National and International Monitoring
This class has challenged me to look at my area of interest in a new way. Instead of focusing exclusively on the human rights aspects of overcrowded prisons in Ghana, I now understand and value the importance of the impact in which overcrowded prisons have on a countrys’ democracy and I hope to express this throughout my paper. Overall, this course was extremely bennifcial not only for the construction of future papers and assignments but also for enabling me to understand various theories regarding democracy.
The common theme I saw between Lynch and Beissinger were the protest and riots which drew international attention. Though this was more than likely there intention, in Beissingers’ article, “Debating the Color Revolutions An Interrelated Wave” he states, “For the most part, revolutions come as a surprise to participants and observers alike—and this was true of the color revolutions as well.” I see the connection in this statement to the recent Arab Uprisings due to the media aspect of the revolutions. Though the tweets and pictures and posts that many people uploaded onto the internet regarding the riots and protest were expected to get some attention, I can imagine that the largeness of the role that social networking and the media played in the Arab Uprisings might have came as a bit of a surprise to those who posted and shared via social media.
After reading a quote of Ghana’s constitution through the Amnesty International article, I began exploring the actual constitution and comparing the degrees with the issues within the prison system. “A person who is arrested, restricted or detained shall be informed immediately; in a language that he understands, of the reasons for his arrest, restriction or detention and of his right to a lawyer of his choice.” Though this is stated in the Ghanaian Constitution, the actual practices show otherwise. This article in particular had a section in which prisoners were interviewed and it was exposed that more than a few inmates did not even know the exact reason they were being detained. I just read of a man who thought he was being incarcerated for a crime that could possibly place him in death row but to his delight, the researchers of Amnesty International found that he was charged with a much less serious offense and was in no danger of facing the death penalty. Such lack of organization points to a bigger problem of understaffing.
In this post I will discuss the information I have found regarding lack of access to a lawyer that many Ghanaians are brought face to face with once arrested for a crime. There are much more inmates than lawyers and in result due do the uneven ratio of lawyers to inmates, many inmates find themselves appearing in court without a lawyer or meeting their lawyer for the first time in court. This is a violation of the 1997 Legal Aid Scheme Act, which claims that anyone who receives less than minimum wage is provided with free legal aid however in the Amnesty International article, “‘Prisoners are bottom of the Pile’ The Human Rights of Inmates in Ghana”, inmates told their researches that this act has little affect on those who need it the most. I find this interesting that this Act was put in place and a little over a decade later it does little for those for whom it was aimed. That alone is an indicator that the prisoner population since 1997 has dramatically increased based on the notion that an act such as the 1997 Legal Aid Scheme Act would not be put into place if there were no indication that it would fulfill its purpose. In other words, what worked then is clearly not working now. I am now in the process of finding statistics of the Ghanaian prison population and see how rapidly the increase has been occurring throughout the years.
In an article that I have recently read, “‘Prisoners are bottom of the Pile’ The Human Rights of Inmates in Ghana”, I have found a lot of useful information regarding lack of access to lawyers and violations of due process as well as contradictions of the Ghanaian constitution. In this post however my focus is the information I have found concerning violations of due process. The article states:
Paragraph 2(C) of the African Commission Resolution on the Right to Recourse and Fair Trial: “Persons arrested or detained shall be brought promptly before a judge or other officer authorized by law to exercise judicial power and shall be entitled to trial within a reasonable time or be released.”
The key words here are “within a reasonable time”. With inmates claiming to have been detained for up to seven years without a trial, it is safe to say the “reasonable time” has expired.
I decided last minute to change my research topic—though still focused on Ghana, I am writing about the overcrowding of prisons and how and why many aspects of overcrowding challenge Ghana’s democratic status. For example, due to the overcrowding problem, many legal rights as well as human rights are being violated. With civil liberties and human rights being key attributers to democracy, this leads to a number of issues such as violations of due process, problems with the right to a lawyer as well as multiple health and sanitation issues. I hope to further explore some of the factors that contribute to the issue of overcrowding in Ghanaian prisons and find if there are possible, realistic solutions and if so, what they may be.
After reading both Tuck and Keysarr’s articles, one could conclude that a major explanation for the “one step forward, two steps back” pattern that seemed to occur in the late 1800’s was the obvious racism and sexism that was prevalent at this time–for example, in Keysarr’s article, he provided a quote that reads:
According to our general understanding of the right of universal suffrage, I have no objection… but if it be the intention of the mover of the resolution to extend the right of suffrage to females and negroes, I am against it. ‘All free white male citizens over the age of twenty-one years,’ —I understand this language to be the measure of universal suffrage.
—Mr. Kelso, Indiana Constitutional Debates, 1850 (Keyssar, 43)
With the ‘elite’ overwhelmingly being white men, it is not surprising that they were biased for other white men. Thus disenfranchising minorities would insure that they, the white males, would remain in control. As for minorities, in particular African Americans, without access to ‘the people’ and with few elites on their side, it would be extremely challenging to get their voices heard, especially after being disenfranchised, which is exactly what the white Southern elites were aiming to achieve. They knew it would not be easy but they “…achieved it by interweaving the issue of the voting rights with the wider ‘negro problem’, not to mention class and gender.” (Tuck, 595)
In regard to the countries with emerging democracies, it is important to keep in mind that, “The United States was not born a full democracy…” (Tuck, 581). Meaning, every country wanting to become democratic has to start somewhere, generally there is no simple way to become democratic, especially not over night. When a country is trying to achieve democracy, they are likely to endure some messy times that once they are democratic, they tend to not like looking back at these specific periods. For example, the United States sometimes likes to overlook and forget some of the gray areas of the past, and not openly recognizing and speaking of these times can make it difficult for democracy seeking countries to relate with the United States in these terms.