Freemasons and charity: An 'emotional' visit to the Accra Borstal Institute

Ghana Prisons 222 Ghana Prisons

Mon, 27 Dec 2021 Source: Isaac Ato Mensah

There were strong feelings, sadness and even manifestations of grief from mature men with strict morals at the Borstal Institute, Dzorwulu, Accra, on Thursday 23 December when the United Grand Lodge of England, English District in Ghana held a luncheon with the inmates.

The five-member delegation from the District Grand Lodge was led by the District Grand Master, and included the District Grand Secretary.

Brother MA, a key advocate of the visitation, who was part of this second annual visit on Thursday could not hide his emotion. The visit had clearly stirred something in him.

Earlier while addressing the inmates, ages ranging from 12 to 21, Brother MA spoke from his heart and told the inmates: “I am a lawyer. I grew up in circumstances just like you. I could easily have ended up like you. Therefore, do not think that this is the end of life. You can go through this and become useful to society”.

Many faces lit up among the inmates.

ADP Millicent Owusu, the official of the Ghana Prisons Service who received the delegation, was grateful for the luncheon and echoed the motivational sentiments during her closing remarks.

She urged the media and the Freemasons to invite other members of the wider Ghanaian society for visits.

“These young ones are already used to our admonitions. Besides, we administer corrections to them. Therefore, our advice does not have the same effect and impact as that of outsiders,” she said.

Boys and girls are kept in strict separation; always in different areas; always totally apart, some of them crying all the time.

Later in a conversation, the visiting benefactors asked each other: “Is this the best that could be done for these young ones?”

One elder visitor replied: “You know, the circumstances that brought these juveniles here is very common in Ghana because many of us live in compound houses, and children are difficult to control within such environments.”

The conversation centred on a boy who had participated in the recently held National Science and Math Quiz through the Presbyterian Secondary School, Osu, Accra, and passed his WASSCE with grade A1 in five subjects, while all the time being an inmate!

“So what’s the end game of these visits because Bro. MA kept saying that you wish the Director of Prisons had answered the call to be present; what if he fails to turn up next year too?,” I asked Bro. C, another member of the visiting team.

“We want to use such visits to draw attention to the plight of the juveniles, and to hear first hand the personal stories of the brilliant and skilled ones such as the boy who competed in the National Science and Math Quiz and has passed his WASSCE,” Bro. C disclosed. “This boy has applied to the University of Mines and Technology (UMaT) to study engineering. Even if UMaT does not offer him admission, we have other public spirited voices who will readily assist us to get help for him and others like him elsewhere.”

He further explained that the District Grand Lodge had identified various ways to help more of the inmates.

“Many of them acquire skills while they are here,” Bro. C observed. “Some are barbers, and they even have a group of scholars among them who are always studying and preparing for various exams. These must be supported to realize that this place is not the end, and that they can achieve their full potential”.

Still, all of us could not help coming back to the plight of these young ones.

“I recognize that someone must be held responsible for serious crimes, but the circumstances under which they are being kept…..,” Bro. C said, his voice quavering, then he gasped and it trailed off with a lament; both of his palms opening and closing; his eyes glistening.

He turned away and sat down in a plastic chair near a corner window, his head bowed.

The visiting delegation and the media earlier heard about and saw the crowded places where the juveniles are kept.

“If one case of covid occurs among them, we’re all in trouble,” ADP Millicent Owusu told us.

But one may ask: “How many inmates?”

Two hundred and twenty! Yes, 220 in a juvenile correctional facility or prison meant for not more than 30!

If as a nation we are resolved to custodial sentencing for juveniles, then should we not provide adequate facilities that will ensure their speedy rehabilitation and development; is that not the least that we owe the juveniles and ourselves?

As Christians celebrate this week the Feast of the Holy Family on 26 December, and the feast of the Holy Innocents on the 28 December, and 29 December for the Eastern Orthodox Church, may this nation remember the plight of these children who were once innocent and born to loving parents and families.

They will always be part of us, for, they too are like us, they have talents and gifts; they share our common humanity, part of the imago Dei.

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Columnist: Isaac Ato Mensah