Security experts identify causes of cell breaks

IGP  ALHASSAN  MOHAMMED.jpg (6)THE recent cell breaks in parts of the country have become a source of worry and pose a security threat to the society.

The Ghanaian Times sought the views of some security experts who proferred solutions for them.

They are, Prof. Ken Attafuah, Acting Dean, Faculty of Law, Central University College, Dr. Ken Ahorsu of the Legon Centre for International Affairs and Diplomacy, a former Director of the Bureau of National Investigations, Commissioner of Police (COP) retired, Kofi Bentum Quantson and Mr. Chukwuemeka .B. Eze Programme Director, West African Network for Peace building.

The interview was based on the factors which have led to the frequent breaking of police cells by suspects and possible solution for them.

Within two months, 13 suspected criminals are reported to have broken cells in four police stations in the country, seven of them at Denu in the Volta Region of whom five have been recaptured, two at the Tepa Police Station, two at Nsuta and another two at the Asiwa Police Station.

Some prisoners of the Kumasi Central Prison also attempted a jail-break but were prevented, and one shot dead.

Dr. Ahorsu said many of the country’s police stations and cells were rented apartments which have been in use since the colonial era, adding that the tendency that most of the structures were built with swish and, therefore weak, was possible.

In that regard, he said, the propensity was that the structures had become frail with possible creaks and facilitate the escape of inmates.

Again, some of the cells are stores and apartments which have been converted into cells.

Dr. Ahorsu noted that the sophisticated nature of crime in recent times, requires that modern police stations and cells are constructed for proper keeping of inmates.

He called for proper fortification of all cells including the fixing of closed circuit television cameras and other monitors to capture events at the police counters.

He advocated the transfer of inmates to other cells rather than keeping them in areas where the crime were committed, since suspected criminals are mostly familiar with cells in their vicinities.

Prof. Attafuah, on his part, said though jail-breaks are not new, the phenomenon is worrisome.

Apart from siting some of facilities which are dilapidated, he mentioned incompetence, corruption and compromise as possible factors for jail breaks.

He gave instances of cell windows which are hanging and the doors locked with electric cables and students padlocks.

Besides, he said, because some of the personnel get compromised in the course of duty, they allow criminals to have their way, and wondered why with the introduction of the Single Spine Salary Structure cases of alleged bribery was still common among security personnel.

He expressed worry over station officers not visiting the cells every hour as required, noting that if that was done frequently, they could thwart the jail-breaks.

Prof. Attafuah a criminologist and private legal practitioner also touched on supervision by district commanders which they fail to do, and urged them to step up the supervision.

He said the lack of vigilance on the part of some duty officers which prevents them from conducting thorough checks on food and other items brought to inmates had led to the concealment of hacksaw blades and other implements in bread and other goods brought in by family members and relations.

Mr. Quantson, on his part, said such breaks were normal in all custodial sentences, noting that in some countries, helicopters and fire arms are used by gangs to rescue their colleagues.

He said that once Ghana has not gotten to that stage, it is important that adequate measures are put in place to safeguard such facilities.

The former Director of the BNI, said once the country has started experiencing such incidents, it is important to tackle them head-on, before they create insecurity.

Usually, he said, such breaks were masterminded with complexities or compromise on the part of some personnel on duty or above.

Mr. Quantson, described as worrying, a person or two manning a station particularly in the night, saying, it is dangerous.

According to him, it is untenable to keep remand or convict prisoners in police cells, saying they have to be transported to the prisons.

Suspects, he said are also not supposed to be kept in cells for more than a month, because apart from familiarising themselves in the cells, some link up with hardened criminals who visit them.

Mr. Eze, on his part, said in situations where there is high corruption, the tendency is that the criminals or their accomplices might try to bribe their way out or even influence personnel on duty with either money or girl friends.

He said some incarcerated inmates also feel they are being treated unjustly in the midst of appalling conditions in the cells.

He said apart from the fortification of the facilities, the cells must be kept well, while inmates are provided with skill training so that after serving their sentences, they could return to society, more reformed.

By Francis Asamoah Tuffour

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