The Ghana Prisons Service in Accra

The Ghana Health Service says it is working closely with prison authorities to ensure that no correctional facility in the country records a case of Covid-19.

Speaking to Joy News, Director of Institutional Care at the Ghana Health Service, Dr Samuel Kaba Akoriyea said the measures are being carried out to protect inmates from contracting the virus.

He highlighted that medical and health officials have been deployed to various prisons to screen visitors and fresh inmates before they are admitted.

In some cases, isolation centres have been created for new inmates to be housed for 14 to 28 days before joining the other prisoners.

Densely populated prisons in Ghana is a major challenge and health experts have warned that, the situation could be catastrophic if an infected person go into these facilities.

Therefore, the Nsawam medium security prison has established certain protocols which include hand washing and checking of temperature of visitors and fresh inmates before they are allowed entry.

A resident Medical Doctor at the Medium security Prison, Dr Lawrence Kofi Acheampong, in an interview said, “looking at the nature of our prisons, we have instituted protocols to prevent any case entering the prison”.

The newly institutionalised Health Directorate at the prison has put in place a contingency plan to safely and swiftly tackle any Covid-19 case.

Dr. Acheampong also reiterated one of WHO’s recommendation of risk management in the prisons.

“Aside the contingency plan, there is also the issue of risk management or risk Communication in prison, this is a highly secured environment and so we don’t entertain rumours.

“If there are rumours that Covid-19 is inside there, the inmates will try to escape, they will riot, and it will turn into a national emergency”. 

Alternative ways of incarceration which includes non-custodial sentencing, is one of the measures being propagated by the WHO as a measure to decongest the prisons to prevent the devastative spread in the event cases are recorded in the prisons.

But given that the non-custodial sentencing bill is currently going through the motions in Parliament, radical amnesty for inmates with lesser offences remains the surest way of decongesting the penitentiaries.

As has been done over the years, government early this year gave amnesty to some 808 inmates across the country, but a more radical amnesty is required if a significant decongestion is to be realized to prevent what could  potentially become a national emergency.

A number of correctional facilities in Ghana are currently overflowing with inmates, leaving prison authorities with no option but to pack inmates like ‘sardines’, a common but regrettable phenomenon.

Director of Institutional Care at the Ghana Health Service who toured the infirmary and health infrastructure of the Nsawam Medium security prison, expressed satisfaction at the level of readiness of the penitentiary on the outside and the inside.

Responding to question about adaptation and robustness of the Covid-19 protocols put in place by the facility, Dr. Kaba said “our concern is to make sure we don’t record any case in confined places like prisons because of the nature of spread…that will be detrimental”. 

Dr. Kaba went on to say, “our (Ghana Health Service) concern is that Doctors and nurses are well protected, and the people coming in on daily basis including Officers, are well disinfected before they go into the prison.”