“When I closed THE GRAPES OF WRATH, I was a different man. It enriched my powers of thinking and discipline and my relationships. I left prison more informed than I went in and the more informed you are the less arrogant and aggressive you are.” – Nelson Mandela
The above quote by one of the world’s icons of democracy, Nelson Madiba Mandela, clearly demonstrates the significance of information and for that matter education in the transformation and reformation of a person. It is for this reason that I believe the Ghana Prisons Administration’s focus on inmates’ education is a step in the right direction.
It would be recalled that the Ghana Prisons Service in 2007 with the support of the Ghana Education Service (GES) introduced formal education into Ghana’s Prison system. It is worthy of note that the inmate students, have also over the years, justified the investments being made in their education as they continue to churn out remarkable results. In 2019 for example, all the 40 inmates presented for BECE recorded a 100% pass of which 25, all juveniles of the Senior Correctional Centre, secured placement in various Senior High Schools, thus benefitting from Government’s free SHS programme. Nine/ 9 adults also sat for WASCE, Nov/Dec and are awaiting results of whom I don’t expect less.
The Service also runs various vocational and trade training programmes for interested inmates. These include carpentry, tailoring, kente weaving, batik, tie and dye, macramé, block moulding and crocheting, among others.
The Ghana Prisons Service’s 2018 Annual Report puts the educational backgrounds of inmates admitted the same year as follows:
Tertiary – 2.48%
Secondary/ post basic – 15.79%
Basic – 65%
No formal education -16.55%
The above statistics show that the majority of inmates admitted were persons with very low educational backgrounds and also seems to suggest that the higher one’s level of education, the less the tendency to fall foul of the law. It is against this backdrop that I find the initiative of Plan Volta Foundation to partner the University of Cape Coast and the Ghana Prisons Service to bring tertiary education to the doorstep of prison inmates, very exciting and highly commendable. This indeed is a gesture worthy of emulation.
The matriculation of 59 inmates on Saturday, 18th January 2020 by the University of Cape Coast at the Nsawam Medium Security Prison is a testimony that Ghana has joined the league of giant nations such as Sweden, USA, UK, Denmark and Australia in offering higher education to prison inmates.
The benefits of prison education are enormous. According to Kathleen Bender, it is a cost-effective way to reduce crime that leads to long term benefits. A report produced by the RANS Corporation in 2016, shows that individuals who participate in any type of in-prison educational programme are 43% less likely to return to prison. Research also shows that in the U.S for example, prisons with college programmes have less violence among prison inmates, which, therefore, creates a safer environment for both the prison inmates and prison staff. In fact, studies consistently show that not only is in-prison education an effective way to reduce recidivism but also saves the expenditure of future prison sentences. In the U.K for example, it is estimated that every pound spent on prison education saves the taxpayer more than 2 pounds, and in the U.S the rate is 4 to 5 dollars saved for every dollar spent.
Again, a study conducted on the value of prison education at 2 correctional facilities in Pretoria, South Africa, found that education for prisoners is not a waste of taxpayer’s money but has socio-economic values, manifested in the promotion of social cohesion, re-integration of ex-convicts as reformed members of the community, provision of knowledge and skills for employment and self-employment through entrepreneurial activities.
According to the 2018 Annual Report of the Ghana Prisons Service, second offenders constitute 14.5% while recidivists constitute 4.11% of total admission of inmates in 2018. This means that the number of persons who returned to prison after serving an earlier sentence constituted 18.6%. The benefits of the success of the Ghana Prisons Service in reforming offenders committed into its custody can therefore not be over-emphasized.
It is instructive to note that the Ghana Prisons Service has the requisite human resource to achieve this, given the necessary logistic and financial support. It is in this vein that I wish to call on all corporate bodies and public-spirited individuals to emulate the example of Plan Volta Foundation and other partners to support to make these inmates’ tertiary education and other reformative and rehabilitative programmes of the Ghana Prisons Service a success and our dear nation, Ghana, will be the ultimate beneficiary.