According to international standards and norms, the goal of imprisonment is to protect society from crime while reducing the likelihood of re-offending through effective rehabilitation programmes. However, to achieve this goal it is crucial to first understand the exact needs of each prisoner and then to be able to provide corresponding prison-based programmes.
The United Nations Standard Minimum Rules for the Treatment of Prisoners, also known as Nelson Mandela Rules, therefore highlight that “As soon as possible after admission and after a study of the personality of each prisoner […] a programme of treatment shall be prepared for him or her in the light of the knowledge obtained about his or her individual needs, capacities, and dispositions.” (Rule 94)
As part of a 3-year technical assistance project – “Strengthening the Compliance of the Ghana Prisons Service with the Nelson Mandela Rules”, funded by the U.S. State Department – UNODC and the Ghanaian Prison Administration have developed a new evidence-based tool in line with international standards, norms, and best practices to assess the individual needs and risks of offenders in prisons in Ghana, enabling the Ghana Prisons Service to draw up effective sentence plans for each prisoner. In a first phase, this classification tool is currently being piloted in four different prison facilities across Ghana.
As a result of UNODC’s commitment to promoting knowledge transfer among prison administrations across the globe, UNODC did not only support the participation of the Ghana Prisons Service at this year’s International Corrections & Prisons Association Conference in Belgium, but also invited a delegation from the Namibian Correctional Service (NCS) to Ghana to share their success story in establishing a comprehensive classification tool in Namibia.
In her presentation to officials of the Ghana Prisons Service, the Deputy Commissioner General of the NCS, Ms. Mariana Martin, explained how the current Namibian “Offender Risk Management Correctional Strategy (ORMCS)”, had also started life as a simple classification tool back in 2008. She noted that it had been a very resource-intensive endeavor at the beginning but had paid off in the medium and long term. Coupled with a self-developed digital prison file system, the data collected through the classification tool and ORMCS allowed the Namibian Correctional Service to use their scarce resources more efficiently and to engage in evidence-based planning and better decision-taking. Ms. Martin also emphasized that since the introduction of the classification tool and broader strategy, the rate of re-offending, prison escapes, and security incidents in prisons in Namibia has reduced significantly.
During their stay in Ghana, the Namibian Correctional Officers joined UNODC and its international consultant in visiting the four prisons that are currently piloting the Ghanaian classification tool to jointly assess progress made and share their experiences with officers on the ground. Their visit was highly appreciated by the officers in charge and served as inspiration to effectively implement individual classification of prisoners in Ghana.
As next steps UNODC and the international consultant will incorporate the feedback received from the pilot prisons with the aim of expanding the tool to at least six more facilities in 2024, including additional capacity-building measures to train prison officers as trainers, as well as limited logistical support to selected prison stations.
With thanks to the Governments of Ghana and Namibia for constructive cooperation and to our generous funder, the U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs.