The Center for Democratic Development (CDD) Ghana is calling for an urgent reform to be made in the country’s juvenile justice system to protect the rights of offenders.
The call follows the Center’s expression of grave concerns over what it bemoaned to be agonising conditions at the country’s juvenile correctional centers.
Ghana’s 4th Parliament of the 4th Republic in 2003, passed the Juvenile Justice Act, 2003 (Act 653) with the aim to provide for an alternative criminal justice system to protect the rights of children in conflict with the law.
The law further sought to provide for younger offenders in accordance with international standards based on the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC) and the United Nations Standard Minimum Rules for the administration of Juvenile Justice. The Correctional Centers that currently exist in Ghana were established in 1947– before the passing of Act 653 – to “reform, rehabilitate and reintegrate” the country’s young offenders through a series of moral and vocational training.
As at August 2018, the Senior Correctional Center (formerly known as the Borstal Institute), which is the only functional male juvenile reformatory unit in the country, housed 230 boys from all over the regions. The Girls Correctional Center – the only senior correctional center for girls in Ghana – has nine inmates.
These correctional centers, which are required to offer skills training and appropriate education to young offenders, are consistently faced with low budget allocation, poor training facilities, outdated equipment, and other resource constraints. Also of major concern is the lack of the very-much-needed stationed physicians and clinical psychologists at the correction centers. These account, in part, for the difficulties associated with reintegrating the youth offenders back into society and the hardships and disillusionment the youth face which often fuel recidivism.
“The CDD is very much concerned that senior correctional centers have been neglected and that the Ghana Prisons Service and the Department of Social Welfare struggle to manage these juveniles amidst the highlighted challenges,” the Center bemoaned in a statement Thursday.
Citing Article 3 (1) of the UN Convention of the Child, which states that “in all actions concerning children, whether undertaken by public or private social welfare institutions, courts of law, administrative authorities or legislative bodies, the best interests of the child shall be a primary consideration,” the Center reminded government and major stakeholders of its obligations to respect and uphold the fundamental human rights of all citizens, including juveniles who may be in conflict with the law.
As a matter of urgency, the CDD called on the government to pay serious attention to the correctional centers that play a key role in the reformation of these young offenders.
It also recommended some actions aimed at strengthening and enhancing senior correctional centers in the country to avert the breeding of juvenile criminals and they are; adequate resourcing for the Senior Correctional Centers, building Senior Correctional Centers in all the regional capitals to prevent juveniles from being sent to adult prisons, provide stationed physicians and clinical psychologists to the Senior Correctional Centers.
The rest are: Provide the necessary training materials, technical and vocational equipment to assist in skills development and training for these young offenders, Set start-up capital for those who may complete their sentence to launch them into self-employment, in the bid to avoid recidivism, Develop a tracking system to check recidivism and National Commission on Civic Education to embark on public sensitization on stigmatization of young offenders by the society.