More than 1,250 prisoners and officers in the country have commenced training to acquire innovative skills in light manufacturing areas and entrepreneurship to turn the country’s prisons into mini factories.
The programme, which is a collaboration between the National Entrepreneurship and Innovation Programme (NEIP) and the Ghana Prisons Service, also provides starter packs and kits for production and working capital to inmates for their setup after they have been discharged from the reformation centre.
For a triple effect, the programme also offers grants and loans to prison officers, who undergo the training, to be able to set up their own businesses, all under the “Entrepreneurship for Restoration” programme.
Launching the programme at the Prisons Headquarters in Accra yesterday, the Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of NEIP, Kofi Ofosu Nkansah, explained that the grants and loans would be advanced under the Youth in Innovative Agriculture for those who were trained in fruit juice processing, while the other project was being financed by the Presidential Startup support and Youstart.
The Minister for the Interior, Ambrose Dery, and a Deputy Minister of Finance, John Kumah, together with Mr Nkansah, inspected some of the products manufactured under the programme during the launch.
Giving details of the products, Mr Nkansah said it included training in detergent making, grains and cereals processing and packaging, and juice processing and packaging from various local fruits.
Others are nuts, tubers and legumes processing; production of local non-alcoholic drinks such as sobolo, asana, atadwe ginger drink, lamuji, saamea; production of yoghurt from palm oil and coconut oil; and the manufacture of cosmetic products such as various body lotions and creams.
Mr Nkansah said the production of detergent by the inmates would help to improve the hygiene and wellbeing in the prisons, and help to reduce diseases and rashes, among inmates.
He added that the various food and drink products produced by inmates would improve their own diet and help their overall health.
“It will also help to reduce the resources government spends to provide detergent and food products to inmates.
Economically, the prisons will also generate some money from the sale of these packaged products,” he added.
Mr Nkansah announced that the NEIP was collaborating with regulatory bodies such as the Ghana Standards Authority and the Food and Drugs Authority for the products to be approved for the market.
The Minister for the Interior, Mr Dery, said the programme was expected to significantly boost efforts by the Prisons Service to provide rehabilitation programmes for inmates.
“Sadly, about 82 per cent of the country’s prisoner population fall within the age bracket of 18 to 35 years,” he noted.
He said many of these young people did not have formal education nor livelihood skills that would enable them to quickly reintegrate into mainstream society upon their discharge.
He indicated that the lack of rehabilitation programmes in addressing the plight of this bracket of vibrant youth was cause for concern among stakeholders and policymakers.
Mr Kumah said the products were good for the market and urged the Prisons Service to take advantage of the Africa Continental Free Trade Area to explore other markets in at least the West African sub-region.
He said the government was determined to give financial support and working capital not just for the training of inmates, but also to fully engage their skills for their individual benefit to enable them to become great entrepreneurs who would create job openings for others.
He said the 2023 Budget had a special financing project dubbed YouStart, under which GH¢10 billion was being used to support entrepreneurial initiatives across the country, and that the “NEIP is one of the implementing agencies that is ensuring that these financial support reach various beneficiaries in the country”.