The project dubbed: “Harnessing Opportunities for Prisoners and Ex-convicts (HOPE)”, will strengthen the Paralegal Unit of the Ghana Prison Service to provide legal services to inmates for enhanced timely access to justice.
It is also to reduce stigmatisation and discrimination against prisoners and ex-offenders, and improve mental and psychological health status of beneficiaries through counselling and psychosocial therapy.
It would as well as provide vocational skills training and business advisory opportunities for ex-convicts and prisoners through apprenticeship training.
The three-year project, which will end in September, 2023 is being implemented by the Centre for Social and Development Reform (CSD Reform), a non-governmental organisation, in partnership with the Ghana Prison Service, Legal Aid Commission, TVET Institutions, Master Craftsmen, Local drama troupes, and the Catholic Archdiocese of Tamale with funding from Misereor, a German organisation.
The HOPE project has been piloted in Tamale for the last two years where up to 18,000 prisoners and ex-convicts benefited, and lessons learnt during the pilot phase shaped the design of the second phase resulting in a variation in objectives, strategies and activities.
Mr David Yiridong Issaka, Executive Director of CSD Reform, who gave details of the project during its maiden launch in Tamale, was optimistic that the project would ensure change in the lives of its beneficiaries.
Mr Issaka said the project would implement a social and behavioural change communication strategy with focus on eliminating discrimination against prisoners.
Deputy Director of Prisons (DDP), Mr Samuel Sapak Zoogah, who is the Northern Regional Commander of Prisons said, “The goal of the HOPE Project falls within the strategic objectives of the Ghana Prison Service of reformation, rehabilitation and reintegration of prisoners into society.”
DDP Mr Zoogah said even though the Ghana Prison Service had been executing its strategic objectives, there was need for support to help make the desired change, and called for support from individuals, organisations and donors to aid in the reformation activities and help keep society peaceful and safe.
He pledged the Ghana Prison Service’s cooperation towards the successful implementation of the project saying “It is our hope that this cooperation and partnership will go a long way to improve the plight of prisoners.”
Most Reverend Philip Naameh, Catholic Archbishop of Tamale, whose speech was read on his behalf, said “the rehabilitation and reintegration of prisoners and ex-convicts is a key concern for the Catholic Church”, hence the Tamale Archdiocese’s support to the CSD Reform to initiate the first phase of the HOPE project to address issues of injustice and lack of economic opportunities among others.
Most Rev Naameh said “We will be calling on policy-makers and policy-implementors to take this important responsibility upon themselves to organise or rather reorganise and redesign the legal and prison institutions to ensure the dignity of all prison inmates by giving them more decent places to live, where inmates’ reform could be a possibility.”
Madam Patricia Fafa Formadi, Member of the Board of Directors of CSD Reform said the successful implementation of the project would be the organisation’s efforts at achieving the Sustainable Development Goals.