Access to the basic necessities of life, such as food, clothing and shelter, are undoubtedly the most important things every person strives to get. This is why Abraham Maslow’s “Hierarchy of Needs” described these three items as the most basic needs of life, without which many people cannot survive and move to their next levels of needs, such as esteem, aesthetic and self actualisation.
Although these basic needs have not been enshrined in the constitutions of many countries, governments are not oblivious of its importance, hence put policies in place to either provide it or create the enabling environment for its citizens to gain access to them.
In Ghana, programmes like ‘Free Senior High School’, ‘Planting for Food and Jobs’ and ‘Affordable Housing’ have been put in place by the government to create the enabling environment for it citizens to have access to the basic necessities of life, like education, food and shelter.
Unfortunately, the prisons have been left out of most of these arrangements. It is true that a person who has committed a crime must face the consequences of his/her actions, but nowhere in Chapter Twelve of the 1992 Constitution, which talks about the Fundamental Human Rights and Freedoms of Ghanaian Citizens, does it state that prisoners should be deprived off food, clothing and shelter.
The Constitution does not even mandate anyone to take the life of a prisoner, except it is in the exercise of the execution of a sentence for a criminal offence. If that is so, then why are prisoners being deprived off the basic needs of life?
As we write, the feeding allowance for a prisoner in Ghana is GH¢1.80 pesewas. This has been so since 2012. Respective governments have promised to increase the allowance, but that has never been achieved.
The question is how do we expect full grown men and women to feed on this money in these trying times? In Ghana today, GH¢1.80 pesewas can only buy three sachet water and nothing more. The Chronicle does not think that anybody should be subjected to such cruel and inhumane treatment.
Prison should be a place where people should be reformed so that they can come out as better persons and contribute their quota to society.
Records shows that about 90% of inmates are the youth, and we all know that they are the main human resource of every society. Therefore, if we have our youths in prison and we do not care about what they eat, how they sleep and live, then we are not going in the right direction.
Elsewhere in the world, prisoners are able to fit in society the moment they are set free, because they are made to acquire workable skills and knowledge while in detention.
We are by this editorial joining Amnesty International Ghana, which has been knocking on the door of government to increase the feeding allowances for prisoners.
We admit prisoners must face the consequences of their actions but they should not be deprived of basic life necessities that will enable them survive, make them healthy and active to contribute to society when they are discharged.