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A journalist on assignment at Nsawam Prisons

Sun, 9 May 2010 Source: GNA

A GNA feature by Akua Boatemaa Adjei

Accra, May 9, GNA - Entering the main entrance of Nsawam Medium Security Prison is like going through airport

arrival and departure security procedures. The meticulous gun-wielding prison personnel dressed in their seasoned brown uniform with black boots to match

had to subject every visitor to thorough body checks. It was my first experience as a young journalist entering a fortified security zone to cover a donation story far from

the watchful eyes of my editors. What struck me like "Love at first sight" was how the place was well organised with people going about their normal

duties. However, the thick and tall fence wall convinced me that the inmates were walking freely around the prisons but

indeed it was not the normal stroll one could take around Kwame Nkrumah Circle or anywhere in Ghana. Typical of men, the male inmates could not help but to heap a couple of romantic accolades on me about how great I

looked. It dawned on me that even in prison one cannot drown the natural instincts of men. There was a church service and like a normal Sunday congregation, people who were serving various sentences

were praising the Almighty God to the hills. After the service one of the inmates yelled out my name and then grabbed me on the hand. I turned and this guy

said: "It is you that I am calling; I know you! Why have you forgotten me?" This was a guy who used to live in my residential area in Accra and just as we were about to interact, a prisons

officer told me it was time to leave. My rare encounter outside the prisons walls however, was with one David Aggudey, who claimed he spent 20 years

in the prison. David, a transformed person who is training to be a pastor, had a harrowing story to tell to convince the youth not

to opt for the easy way out. He said he killed one Alena Marie Gomez, a tourist who was introduced to him on February 17, 1989. He was to

assist Elena as a tourist guide to map her next route in Africa. David, then 25 years and a self-styled tour guide and a business tycoon originally based in Ouagadougou, said he

convinced Alena to head south from Burkina Faso to Ghana. David, who said he was into drugs, attacked Alena with the intention of robbing her of the money she brought on her

trip. In the process he murdered her, burnt her body and most of her possessions except her vehicle and bank card. Alena's family did not learn of the murder until her murderer was arrested in September l989 and confessed

committing the crime. David said he tried to empty Alena's bank account with her ATM card but he was traced by the letter to withdraw the

money and was arrested. David was convicted in February l990 and sentenced to die by firing squad. He was sent to the condemned prisons at Nsawam where he said he got converted to Christianity. David said in 2003 the death sentence was commuted to life imprisonment and on January 9, 2009 he was pardoned

and released from prison. He is a bible student at the Manna Mission Bible Institute, where he is training to become a pastor. David said staying in prison was not easy and one was always confronted by the threat of sodomy and diseases. "When you come out of prison you are confronted with stigma, discrimination and constant rejection," he said. In and out of Nsawam was just a day's assignment but the experience had a telling effect on me. I felt a prisoner

when I entered the compound and interacted with people convicted of all manner of crimes. The passion for love and lust was displayed by some of the male convicts who virtually taunted me with their lustful

overtures. The most convincing cut of all was how a murderous prisoner could tell his story of more than 20 years incarceration

and changed from the old ways of seeing life to warn the youth to desist from drugs and crime. I left Nsawam Medium Security Prison emotional but morally fortified to echo the story to my peers - Your wayward

behaviour could offer you appointment with prison life. Stop the deviant behaviour and get wise. "A word to the wise is enough."

Columnist: GNA