Ghana Prisons Service

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Official logo of the Ghana Prisons Service.

The Ghana Prisons Service (GPS) is responsible for the safe custody of prisoners in Ghana, as well as their welfare, reformation and rehabilitation.[1] It is under the jurisdiction of the Ministry of the Interior.

Legislative Mandate[edit]

  1. Prison Regulations 1958 (L.I. 412).
  2. Prison Standing Orders 1960.
  3. Prison (Amendment) Regulation 1970 (L.I. 648).
  4. Prisons (Declaration of Prisons) Instrument 1971 (E.I. 22).
  5. Prisons Service Decree, 1972 NRCD 46.
  6. Ghana Prisons Service Scheme of Service Administration (1991).
  7. The 1992 Constitution of Ghana.


The GPS has a mandate to perform three main functions. These are:[1]

  1. Ensuring safe custody of prisoners and execution of sentences in a humane manner.
  2. Ensuring the welfare of prisoners through protection of their rights and providing them with good health care, clothing, bedding, feeding, recreation, and library facilities, among other amenities.
  3. Ensuring the reformation and rehabilitation of prisoners by offering them opportunities to develop their skills through trade, training and moral education.


The Prisons Service is governed by the Prisons Service Council, an advisory and supervisory body. Its Functions includes advising the President on "matters of policy in relation to the organisation and maintenance of the prisons system in Ghana."

The Prisons Headquarters in the Greater Accra region houses the Controller-General of Prisons and two Deputy Controller-General of Prisons, Seven Controllers of Prisons and other principal office holders.

The current Controller-General of Prisons is Matilda Baffour Awuah. She is a career prison officer with several decades of experience in prisons administration and holds a master's degree in Public Administration from the School of Administration, a Post Graduate Diploma in Journalism and Public Relations from the School of Communication Studies and a Bachelor of Arts Degree in Modern History, all at the University of Ghana, Legon.


There are 45 prison establishments in Ghana, including twelve major male prisons.[2] These male prisons are located in Akuse, Kumasi, Sekondi, Tamale, Nsawam, Ho, Sunyani, Navrongo, Wa, Tarkwa, Winneba,and Cape Coast. The country also has seven major female prisons, located in Akuse, Ho, Nsawam, Sekondi, Sunyani, Kumasi, and Tamale.[2] In addition, there are local prisons sited throughout the country.[2] The James Camp Prison near Accra, and Ankaful near Cape Coast, are both Open Camp Prisons.[2] Ghana's prisons house between 11,000 and 14,000 inmates, with females forming approximately 2% of the prison population.[2]

Prisons in Ghana are classified based on their level of security, and on the activities undertaken at the various establishments:

  1. In the Central Prisons, trade training facilities are provided to equip prisoners with employable skills for their effective reintegration into society. They take custody of long-sentenced prisoners. Central Prisons are the central points for all categories of prisoners, with the exception of condemned prisoners.
  2. Local Prisons are mainly responsible for the safe custody and welfare of inmates, due to the lack of space for trade training activities. They usually take custody of short-sentenced prisoners.
  3. Open Camp Prisons undertake agricultural activities to provide food and train inmates in modern agricultural practices. Prisoners who are about to be released are at times transferred to these facilities as transit to prepare them for their final release into society.
  4. In Agricultural Settlement Camps, the level of security is quite relaxed; they are usually not fenced. The main objective is to train inmates in agricultural activities, and to produce enough food to supplement the feeding of inmates and generate some income for the Prisons Service.

Prisons Transformational Taskforce[edit]

The Controller-General of the Ghana Prisons Service, Matilda Baffour Awuah, commissioned a transformational taskforce to help upgrade the Prisons system to conform to the United Nations standards. The taskforce, with members from all the departments of the service, will among other things; bring all stakeholders on board to build a solid foundation for the transformation and assess the current state of affairs of the service.

The taskforce will also check on the level of congestions in various prisons throughout the country and make recommendations for decongestion and advise capacity building measures for staff members. The terms of reference for the transformation team, also include; high level consultations with all stakeholders especially key agencies of the Criminal Justice System, members of the civil society, religious groups, volunteers and both local and international development partners in the Country.

The British High Commission, Migration Section in Ghana, commissioned a study into the Ghanaian Prison System with the aim of making recommendations for its reform into a modern Correctional System. The report, together with its recommendations has been examined by the transformation team to help strategize and take actions to improve on existing structures, systems, methods of operations and general handling of prisoners in the country.


The Ghana Prisons Service has 6,200 officers and staff. Twenty percent of the staff are women.[2]


The main challenge that confronts the service is a persistent lack of funds. One effect of this, evident since 1972, is that the service is unable to ensure that convicts do not reoffend.[3] Other challenges that face the service include prison overcrowding, lack of sanitation, and poor prison infrastructure. Some of the GPS' prisons are extremely outdated; for example, the James Fort Prison in Accra is almost 400 years old,[2] and was originally built for 200 slaves, but currently houses over 740 male and female prisoners.

James Fort Prison, Accra (far left).
  1. Insufficient budget allocation for Reformation Programmes – prisoners are generally unskilled and unmotivated as they enter prison. There are many deficiencies to be corrected and funding is needed for the programmes to be effective.
  2. Poor accommodation structures – old and weak structures and poor architectural designs unsuitable for long detention of people. Overcrowding often leads to poor sanitation and health problems.
  3. Stigmatization of prisoners – stigmatization of prisoners leads to dejection and reoffending which lead to recidivism and high crime rate undermines efforts of reformation and rehabilitation of prisons.
  4. Lack of support from public to reform and reintegrate prisoners after their release.[2]

United Nations support[edit]

The United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) is supporting the reorganisation of the Ghana Prisons Service under a four-year project, focusing on human rights development. As part of the restructuring, the Borstal Institute for Juveniles is now called the Senior Correctional Centre.[3]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b "The Ghana Prisons Service". Archived from the original on 22 August 2011. Retrieved 7 May 2011. 
  2. ^ a b c d e f g h "Ghana Prisons System". Archived from the original on 25 August 2011. Retrieved 15 May 2011. 
  3. ^ a b "Ghana Prison Service to change name". Retrieved 7 May 2011.