Ghana Prison Officers’ Understanding and Practices of International Human Rights Instruments and Guidelines that Protect the Rights of Prisoners

AuthorHarrison Kwame Golo
Published date01 September 2022
Date01 September 2022
Subject MatterArticles
Ghana Prison Off‌icers
Understanding and
Practices of International
Human Rights
Instruments and
Guidelines that Protect
the Rights of Prisoners
Harrison Kwame Golo
Research on prison off‌icersunderstanding and compliance with the interna-
tional human rights instruments for the protection of prisonersrights and
guidelines for justice administration remains scanty. Drawing on data from
scenario-based interviews of 24 selected prison off‌icers in the four largest
prison facilities in Ghana, this article seeks to explore how Ghana prison off‌i-
cers understand and practice these instruments and guidelines that protect
the rights of prisoners. Applying content analysis, the f‌indings reveals that
the overwhelming majority of off‌icer participants in this study did not
have adequate intellectual and practical understanding of these relevant
instruments and guidelines.
prison off‌icers, human rights instruments, prisonersrights, guidelines for
justice administration
University of Education, Winneba, Ghana
Corresponding Author:
Harrison Kwame Golo, Centre for Conf‌lict, Human Rights, and Peace Studies (CHRAPS),
University of Education, P.O. Box 25, Winneba, Ghana.
The Prison Journal
2022, Vol. 102(4) 439457
© 2022 SAGE Publications
Article reuse guidelines:
DOI: 10.1177/00328855221109808
Charged with securing the safety of society through the incarceration of those
considered to be most dangerous, prison off‌icers are not only expected to help
reform and rehabilitate those who have offended against the criminal law, but
also to ensure that detention conditions and prison arrangements respect the
dignity of each and every prisoner(Murdoch & Jiricka, 2016). However,
there have been growing worldwide concern among politicians, governments
and practitioners concerning human rights violations of people deprived of
their liberty by imprisonment or other forms of detention. Consequently,
research on various issues relating to prison management, including, human
rights violations within prisons, has increased over the past decades (see
Murdoch & Jiricka, 2016; Naylor, 2014, 2015; Bartels & Boland, 2016;
Naylor et al., 2014; Tapscott, 2008). However, relatively little work has
been undertaken to examine prison off‌icersunderstanding of the relevant
human rights instruments and guidelines that protect the rights of prisoners.
This article thus attempts to go beyond human rights violations suffered by
prisoners (Naylor, 2014) and, instead, explore the prison off‌icersintellectual
and practical understanding of these relevant international human rights
instruments and guidelines through a scenario-based qualitative research
approach. To recognize the values of dignity, equality and freedom of
every individual, (including prisoners) in the society, as an inherent right,
is to realize the meaning of their shared humanity, and the failure to do so
is to diminish them (Bonabom, 2014).
In this regard, commitment to the protection of the fundamental rights of
persons sentenced to incarceration takes a variety of forms in the United
Nations human rights system that guide statesdomestic laws. They
include established specialized human rights instruments, documents, and
mechanisms, some of which are articulated in the Bill of Rights to constitute
the integral part of the general principles of law, and by absorption into
domestic law frameworks of state responsibilities (Bonabom, 2014).
The governments of Ghana have indeed done the needful by signing and/
or ratifying major international treaties, documents, and mechanisms relating
to the promotion and protection of human rights as well as the rule of law.
Among the human rights documents signed and ratif‌ied by Ghana are: the
International Convention on Civil and Political Rights, the African Charter
on Peoplesand Human Rights, and the Convention against Torture and
other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment. There are
similar frameworks for the protection of prisoners adopted by the African
Commission, which has been ratif‌ied by Ghana. They are; Prevention of
Torture, Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment in Africa
440 The Prison Journal 102(4)

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