Prisoners on death row at the Nsawam Medium Security Prison, uncertain about their fate and having languished in jail for years, have pleaded with the President for clemency, describing prison conditions as “unbearable”. The about 150 condemned prisoners have already served in solitary confinement between 10 and 20 years.
Solitary confinement is a form of imprisonment in which an inmate, serving a sentence ranging from days to decades, is isolated from any human contact, often with the exception of members of prison staff.
It is mostly employed as a form of punishment beyond incarceration for a prisoner, usually for violations of prison regulations. It is also used as an additional measure of protection for vulnerable inmates.
Solitary confinement is often described as ‘prison within a prison’ and the condemned inmates, some of whom broke down in tears when a delegation from the Danquah Institute (DI) was conducted round the facility last Thursday, pleaded for forgiveness, saying: “We are suffering here; we have regretted our actions and we ask the President to have mercy on us.”
The scene at the Condemn Block was emotional, as one of the prisoners on death row and leader of that section of inmates, Clement Kofi Ackah, desperately tried to follow the delegation out of the solitary prison gate as he chanted for clemency.
He told the Daily Graphic that he had been in solitary confinement for the past 10 years on the charge of murder.
Johnson Kombien, described as Ghana’s most hardened criminal, who was sentenced to death by hanging for killing two policemen on October 17, 2010, was seen in handcuffs in the prison wearing a frightful face.
A source told the Daily Graphic that Kombien was a hardened criminal and that his attempt to escape from prison custody in the past left the prison authorities with no other choice but to place handcuffs on him all the time, “even within solitary confinement”.
“There is always one officer assigned to him to make sure that he makes no funny moves again,” the source added.
The delegation also visited the prison room where Dr J. B. Danquah was detained.
One prison officer who lamented conditions at the prison said the major challenge had been the frequent power outages and irregular water supply to the facility.
Another challenge, he said, was the inadequate feeding grant of GH¢1.80 a day per inmate, saying the situation had compelled the Ghana Prison Service to own farms to cultivate food to supplement the insufficient food ration from the government.
The second in command at the Nsawam Prison, Assistant Director of Prisons Mr Samuel Owusu Amponsah, said 100 acres of farm had been cultivated this year.
The challenges also included the prison’s inability to pay the medical bills of inmates and utility bills due to the delay in the release of funds, he said. He said the prison’s debts hovered around GH¢43.165 million.
The Nsawam Prison, built around 1960 to accommodate about 120 inmates, currently holds about 3,000 prisoners.