Home Law International Handbook of Juvenile Justice
The state of the Correctional Centres:
(a) The Senior Correctional Centre
There is only one Senior Correctional Centre and it is for boys only. Established as the Borstal Institute in 1947 in response to the demands created by the establishment of juvenile courts, its stated mission was “...to save the young and careless from a wasted life of crime.”
At the time of its establishment as the Borstal Institute, it operated under the welfare services branch of the government. However, it was transferred to the Prisons Department in 1949 and has been run by the Prisons Service ever since, as a “prison” for juveniles. The prison officers who run the institute do not have special training for this kind of assignment. It is by normal administrative schedules that officers are posted to that establishment. There is little difference in the manner of handling the juveniles committed to the institution, and the officers are given no special in-service training for the supervision of the inmates at the Correctional Centre. It is unlikely that persons trained to handle prisoners in a certain manner can be expected to forget their training as and when they are transferred from a prison to the Correctional Centre, when there is no requirement of specialization in the handling of juveniles for one to qualify to serve at that center.
The center itself has very pleasant surroundings, with dormitory blocks named after famous religious and other personalities, as is the culture of secondary boarding schools in the country. The campus is kept very clean with neat lawns and gardens carefully tended by the boys, and whitewashed stone borders are kept scrupulously white. The presence of armed and uniformed prison personnel is itself not remarkable as the institution has merged with the living quarters of the prison officers and the training school of the Prisons Service. The place thus has an outward appearance of peace and calm, but like the proverbial “whitewashed tomb,” the outward appearance gives nothing but the most misleading picture of the internal conditions. There is severe regimentation—almost military-like. With a lot of emphasis on group discipline, there seems to be very little space for the individual attention that these juveniles obviously need. This regimentation is born of outdated penal philosophies of the twentieth century that discipline can be achieved by regimentation. If the nickname “secondary school” among prisoners (because it feeds the pool of inmates of adult prisons also known as “universities” in those circles) is to be abandoned, then more efforts at appropriate rehabilitation must be made to break the link between Senior Correctional Centre and prison. The approach to corrections at the Senior Correctional Centre must be reviewed to accord with modern notions of penology now that it has adopted a modern name and shed its old one.
There is no Senior Correctional Centre for girls, and so however serious the case of a female juvenile, she is kept at a Junior Correctional Centre for girls. This certainly creates a danger of contamination of younger girls as they may be influenced by the older girls. On the side of the older girls, they may be resentful, leading to a rejection of all the reformatory efforts put at their disposal. The nonsecure surroundings also ensure a high degree of escapes from the institution such that a girl who may have committed murder could be out again in a few months
(b) The rehabilitation programs
The vocational programs in all the Correctional Centres have serious problems that threaten the very basis of the program, yet these programs are important not just for their rehabilitation but also their reintegration into normal society. The causes of these problems are many and varied; some are due to the general depressed economic conditions in the country, others due to the lack of enthusiasm on the part of the inmates, and still others due to the noncooperative attitudes of their parents. These problems must be addressed with some innovative ideas as it is unlikely that Ghana’s economy would improve dramatically any time soon. For instance, a commendable innovation is the opening up of the vocational programs at the Junior Correctional Centre (formerly Senior Industrial School) at Osu so that the training offered to the inmates could be extended to the girls in the community. This is a positive development and would need time to make its impact felt, but it is hoped that it would achieve its stated aims, particularly if they were encouraged to attain certification from the relevant trade certification authorities.
(c) Security issues
At the Correctional Centres, security arrangements are completely inadequate for the custodial institutions that they are meant to be. Although there is every effort made to keep the children secure in the institution, not very much exists by way of formal security arrangements, particularly at the institutions run by the Department of Social Welfare. Many of those buildings are so dilapidated that it takes very little effort for the inmates to abscond. The institution, often lacking facilities to photograph each inmate at the time of admission as required by law, finds itself handicapped to provide an adequate physical description of the fugitive to the general public. The problem is compounded by the absence of good residential addresses, etc., and so a juvenile who escapes from detention is able to return to his or her former lifestyle with minimum official interference. The situation at the Senior Correctional Centre is only slightly better, even though the Prisons Service has its own security arrangements. Security definitely is a problem that needs to be addressed, especially now that all juveniles, even those of violent propensity, are to be sent there, rather than to prison; the question, however, is how much of it may be provided without prejudicing the nature of that institution?
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