Crime & Punishment Mon, 16 May 2005

Juveniles Locked Up With Hardened Criminals

The conditions for inmates in Ghana's police cells are a long list of downright violations of the Constitution of Ghana, with the worst f the violations being that juveniles are kept in the same cells as hardened adult criminals.

The Independent has in its possession, parts of the most recent and not yet published report from the Commission on Human Rights and Administrative Justice (CHRAJ), covering the years 2004 and 2005.

The contents of the report, though not different from those of previous year, are disastrous. The part of the report which the Independent newspaper currently has in its possession, concerns CHRAJ investigations undertaken at Cantonments Male Police Cells in Accra.

At Cantonments a central cell serves the C.I.D. Headquarters and other nearby stations and the report states that the cell here contains suspects that are normally "hardened criminals e.g. robbery suspects, drug dealers and others." The same report, based on investigations done by a CHRAJ team on September 30, 2004, states: "Two juveniles aged 15 and 17 who were stowaways were in the cell, but during interaction with the inmates it was revealed that there was one more juvenile making up three in all."

According to a CHRAJ Director, Mr Duke Hammond, the tradition of keeping juveniles in the same cells as adults is nothing new. "It is against (the) rule, law and constitution and it has been one of our major concerns, "Mr Hammond said and observed that the rules are very clear as it is stated in the Police Code of Conduct that juveniles are to be kept separated or at the counter and possibly with their parents.

Other violations that take place in police cells include inhuman condition like lack of cleaning, food, mattresses and blankets and even lack of access to fresh water. Inmates also suffer from no or poor lighting, overcrowding and bad ventilation. "In most cases police cells violate the UN minimum standards and in all our reports we have talked about issues of ventilation, hygiene and crowdedness. We have also criticised the standard where inmates defecate and urinate in the same room where they sleep," Mr Duke Hammond said.

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