It is a dream of most young men not to only grow to become prominent persons in future but to marry and give birth. Every young man’s dreams and aspirations are evident all over their faces.
Their conversations and thoughts reflect an isolated world and a desire for things to happen quickly. A path they consider sometimes leaving for an easier one but hoping of getting a destination. However, their haste to achieve an aspiration in life sometimes trips them off the journey.
That is the situation of a 32-year-old inmate who is serving 9 years jail at the Navrongo central prisons in the Upper East region. For the purposes of this report I shall call him Paul. My visit at the prisons saw Paul slumped on a bench whiles weaving a smock cloth.
Paul is among other inmates at the Navrongo central prisons who are into vocational skills while serving their term. He tells me he aspired to get married but unfortunately landed behind the bars. Amidst the challenges in prison, his desire to chase his dreams earned him a senior seamstress, an expert and a trainer of smock weaving.
“There is no design that I can’t do. I have also trained others to weave the smock”
The prison, a place of rehabilitation to some others should leave inmates to fester in cold cells. But call it a sweet mistake and you will not be wrong. Paul is not perturbed that his freedom has been curtailed. “Prison is good for me, when I came here I have changed. I am no more drinking and smoking. I have seen something good in my life” he stated.
Paul admitted, “I have seen that there is nothing bad about the prison if you want good and when you come you will become good and if you want bad and you come you will become bad”.
Another inmate whom I have decide to call Inusah for the purposes of this report has served seven out of ten years slapped on him in 2010. Inusah, a founding member, and leader of the smock weaving said the trade has been a source of income to him while he serves his tenure there.
“I don’t want to sit without doing anything because when I was outside I wasn’t a lazy person. I will not say because I am in prison I will not do anything because if I leave here I will join my family. I have children outside there and they are attending school so I have to do things to help my family.”
The Navrongo Central prisons as part of its duties is to rehabilitate inmates in sound mind and also through vocational skills. Among its vocation is the smock weaving. Inmates there have produced a variety of smock fabrics and accessories to meet the quest of every individual. Smocks designed by inmates of the Navrongo central prisons are hand woven to ensure its durability. These smocks which come in variety can be worn to occasions such as outdoorings, weddings, funerals, office, church service, dinner and any other event. The smocks can be worn by both male and female ranging from children to adults.
The smock trade adds up to other vocational skills the inmates are undergoing. Deputy Director of Prisons, Henry Dasaah Asly who is Upper East Regional commander of the prisons service bemoaned the lack of support to carry out rehabilitation projects.
“We send our boys to the Rural Enterprise Foundation and they [inmates] are trained on metal fabrication. We have a rabbit project but because of lack of funding the housing is very poor, which could also be a learning center for the inmates.”
Upper East Regional Public Relations Officer of the Ghana prisons service, ASP Nyakpani Alhassan explains that monies accrued from the smock trade is shared among inmates particularly in the business and part of it meant for administrative purposes.
Sufficient funding to run the vocational projects at the prisons has been a setback. ASP Nyakpani Alhassan appeals for public support. “Currently we have two or three looms that the inmates are using for the smock weaving. This is to enable us to rehabilitate these inmates so that after [their] discharge they can find something doing. That will reduce the reoffending offences. But the funding is our problem.”
People are inclined to do frivolous or harmful things to get rid of their boredom hence the saying ‘the devil finds work for idle hands’. It is in this regard that deemed inmates, Paul and Inusah are seeking a better life for themselves and their families through smock weaving even after their exit of the Navrongo prisons. They, however, advised the youth to engage in a trade not to fall prey of evil deeds. “If you impregnate a girl and she delivers who will take care of the child? By all means, the child will become a thief but when you have something doing the child will not be doing bad things that will bring disgrace to the family” Paul admonished.
“What I want to tell the youth outside there is that this modern Ghana you cannot sit down and expect someone to feed you. Even if somebody will feed you the person cannot feed you always. So I will encourage the youth outside there that they should not be sitting without doing anything” Inusah advised.
Many inmates find their way back behind the bars after their released due to unavailability of opportunities. Until there is employment, health service, housing and a society devoid of stigma to welcome inmates back, time and resources spent in rehabilitating them will be of no value.
BY: Joshua Asaah|A1radioonline.com|Ghana