Finding Solace Behind Bars: Experiences of Inmates in Kumasi Central Prison

Date01 October 2020
AuthorJohn Boulard Forkuor,Kwadwo Ofori-Dua,Nachinaab John Onzaberigu
Publication Date01 October 2020
Finding Solace Behind
Bars: Experiences of
Inmates in Kumasi
Central Prison
Kwadwo Ofori-Dua1,
John Boulard Forkuor1 and
Nachinaab John Onzaberigu1
Most studies on prisoners in West Africa and Ghana have been on prisoners’
rehabilitation services and overcrowding conditions of inmates. This study sought
to explore how inmates find solace while in prison given the poor prison condi-
tions reported in many studies in developing countries. It aimed, among others, to
examine the activities or things that give solace and happiness within the prison
environment as well as the strategies inmates adopt to sooth their conditions in
prison. Qualitative approaches were adopted in the study. Data were collected
mainly through the use of interviews. The study involved a sample size of 31 male
inmates within the Kumasi Central Prison. It was found that inmates form social
networks in the cell to find peace (solace) and relief in prison cells. They also
engage in indoor games, religious activities and skills training as ways of coping
with the harsh conditions. It was also found that family network and support
were central to inmates’ solace in prison custody. Survival and finding solace in
cell were also dependent on the kind of friendship support inmates acquire in
the prison.
Inmates, solace, social network, prison cell, inmates’ families
Journal of Victimology
and Victim Justice
3(2) 183–201, 2020
2020 National Law
Universit y Delhi
Reprints and permissions:
DOI: 10.1177/2516606920965341
1 Department of Sociology and Social Work, Faculty of Social Science, College of Humanities and
Social Science, Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology, Knust-Ghana, Ghana.
Corresponding author:
Nachinaab John Onzaberigu, Department of Sociology and Social Work, Faculty of Social Science,
College of Humanities and Social Science, Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology,
Knust-Ghana PMB, Ghana.
184 Journal of Victimology and Victim Justice 3(2)
Introduction and Background of the Study
Punishment of an erroneous act is as old as wrongdoing and society.2 Tumwine
et al. argued that society chastises offenders because they alarm its conscience and
threaten its ethics and integrity. Every society has a core duty to reduce, if not
eliminate, criminality by prescribing punishments that would deter criminals,
provide retribution to victims, rehabilitate offenders and prevent crimes from
happening again. Imprisonment is one way by which society punishes and reforms
offenders in modern societies.3
In traditional African society, the nature of punishments handed out to offenders
included fines, cautions, death, compensation, flogging and castigating or chasing
one out of the clan or community, but not imprisonment.4 Every African tribe
had its own established mechanisms of handling offenders depending on the
gravity of the crime committed. Before the arrival of the colonial masters, African
societies had their unique penance for wrongdoers.5 Prison was not an indigenous
African institution, rather, like so many elements of African bureaucracy today, it
is a holdover from colonial times; an European ingress designed to segregate and
penalize criminals, ensure social regulation, and administer capital and corporal
punishment to offenders.
Steffensmeier and Allan6 argued that the use of formally established state
prisons cells as a means of dealing with society’s reprobates is of fairly contem-
porary origin. They argued that, in England, the first Prison Act was passed in
1898. Before then, prisons and jails were places where people were indiscrimi-
nately locked up without any formal court hearing to await execution, torture,
banishment or the arrival of a Magistrate when he came on his circuit.7 Modern
pathological assessment of prisons reflects basically three schools of thought.8
First, disciplinarians (or conservatives) support the idea that prisons should be
retained as places of punishing offenders and protecting society members from
wrongdoers. They advocate for harsh prison conditions and more retributive
reforms. The second school of thought includes those who believe that prisons are
indispensable to society but should be reformed to make them less punitive and
more humane with more of rehabilitation programmes for inmates. The third
2 A. Ssebuggwawo, Community Service and Recidivism: A Study of the Legal and Institutional
Framework in Kampala District (2010).
3 W. K. Van & S. Bartollas, Prison Reform: Panel’s Recommendations Will Be Implemented
Obasanjo (2010).
4 K. Ofori-Dua et al. Unanticipated Consequences of Imprisonment on Families of Prison Inmates
of Kumasi Central Prison of Ghana, 3(3) Int. J. Soc. Sci. Stud. 185–196 (2015). http://dx.doi.
5 T. AcocA & W. Young, The norThern Tribes of nigeriA: An eThnogrAphicAl AccounT of The
norThern provinces of nigeriA TogeTher WiTh A reporT on The 1921 DecenniAl census (1996).
6 T. Steffensmeier & L. Allan, Correctional Medical Services, History (1998), available at www.
7 T. Ogundipe, An Unanswered Health Disparity: Tuberculosis Among Correctional Inmates, 1993
Through 2003, 95(10) Am. J. Pub. Health 1800–1805 (2006).
8 r. rADcliff-broWn, sTrucTure AnD funcTion in primiTive socieTY (2012).

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