Sex and sexuality in our jails: A tale of the predator and the prey

kwahuonlineradio August 12, 2019 0
Sex and sexuality in our jails: A tale of the predator and the prey

Sex plays an important role in our social lives. Apart from procreation,
it brings to the participating individuals emotional and physical
fulfilment required to keep them hale and hearty. A good sex life is
believed to bring to the individual benefits such as lower blood
pressure, reduced stress, improved mood, enhanced immune function,
general fitness among others.

Sexuality, the way people express themselves sexually, is a subject
which arouses diverse opinions in Ghana. This is because, the Ghanaian,
traditionally, recognizes heterosexual relationships as the accepted
form of sexuality. Homosexual relationships, though abhorred by the
greater populace, is creeping into the Ghanaian society. Regardless the
sexual orientation of an individual, sexual satisfaction remains the
ultimate goal.

Prisons in Ghana house only adults, making it easy to assert that most
incarcerated persons are sexually active. Among the many deprivations
prisoners in Ghana endure is sex, as prison rules disallow all forms of
sexual acts. Additionally, prison regulations make no provision for
conjugal visits which permit spouses of incarcerated persons to spend
intimate moments with their partners. Some prisoners, in the
circumstance, resort to same-sex relationships to feed their sexual
cravings.

How effective is the ‘no sex’ regulation?

Ghana, like other jurisdictions, house male and female prisoners in
different facilities preventing any contact between the two sexes.

To alleviate the pains of imprisonment, some prisoners risk the
consequences and engage in sexual acts as asserted in Erving Goffman’s
1969 work, ‘The Presentation of Self in Everyday Life’. He posited that,
inmates may have to adjust their sexual practices while incarcerated by
engaging in illegal methods in order to obtain certain forms of
satisfaction.

The issue of same-sex relationships in our prisons is gradually becoming
topical as prisons mirror the wider society. There have even been
claims by some ex-convicts to the effect that same-sex relationships and
rape exist in our facilities. Though most of these claims are blown out
of proportion, there are certain levels of truth in them. An incident
at the Ankaful Maximum Security Prison in June 2016 where a male
prisoner slashed the penis of another prisoner who attempted to rape him
paints a picture of how the act is viewed by a majority of prisoners.
The practice, nicknamed ‘Kpee’, is treated as a taboo throughout Ghana’s
prisons. That notwithstanding, there are few instances where prisoners
report attempted rape by fellow prisoners to prison staff. These reports
are swiftly investigated and appropriate sanctions handed to sex
predators.

Who is at risk of being preyed on?

A number of inmates who have suffered sexual harassment in our jails are
from poor homes and or receive little or no family support during their
jail terms. Prison ration, which mostly is insufficient, becomes their
only means of survival.

The overcrowding rate in our facilities stand at 52.87% with 15,203
prisoners struggling for 9,945 spaces. This gives little room for prison
administrators to do a proper classification of inmates to either
prevent contamination or limit the exposure of low risk prisoners to
hardened ones. First offenders who find themselves in same cells as
powerful recidivists are sometimes coerced to trade their bodies for
sleeping spaces.

Challenges faced in the area of feeding still exist. The feeding rate
of GH 1.80 per prisoner daily has stagnated for close to a decade making
it almost impossible to provide three wholesome meals. The quest to
keep body and soul together in some circumstances result in poor
prisoners kowtowing to the pressures of their rich colleagues. Affluent
prisoners in search of sexual gratification sometimes resort to these
weaklings as the provision of food and other necessities, sometimes, is
more than enough to lure them into same-sex relationships.

Prison staff mostly have difficulty in detecting these relationships
since most sex offenders employ coercive and non-violent tactics to win
over partners. Additionally, prisoners often underreport overtures for
fear of being labeled as informants or becoming subjects of physical
abuse.

Are conjugal visits the way to go?

In looking for a solution to the emerging scourge of sexual
relationships behind bars, conjugal visits come to mind. The system,
which runs in some prisons around the world, permits prisoners to host
their spouses in specially built quarters for specific periods. The key
to these special quarters, in most cases, is good conduct. Apart from
the emotional and physical need of sex that the system presents, prison
authorities use it as a bait to enforce prisoner discipline.

Ghana’s prison system in my estimation, is still some miles away from being ripe for such an intervention.

Deficiencies as regards feeding, overcrowding, inadequate reformation
and rehabilitation modules and others that the Service currently endures
need to be given needed attention as they together possess, though
indirectly, an antidote to fighting sex predators.

The fact is, if prisons are not resourced to correct the offending
behaviours of prisoners, they are sure to return to haunt society. This
confirms the saying of Marquis de Sade, a French author, that “any
punishment that does not correct is a piece of gratuitous infamy which
makes those who impose it more guilty in the eyes of humanity, a hundred
times more guilty than the victim on whom the punishment is inflicted.”



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