Story: Samuel Duodu, Sunyani
The family of a 27-year-old taxi driver who died in prison custody at the Sunyani Central Prisons have appealed to the Minister of the Interior to set up an independent investigation body to establish the circumstances that led to his death in prison.
According to the family of the deceased, their son, Udo York, was hale and hearty before he was convicted to serve a six-month jail term for defaulting to pay a fine of GH¢600 for a traffic offence he had committed.
The family also stated that they would not bear the cost of the mortuary fees and that for the post mortem, which they had been asked by the Prison authorities to pay, because the deceased died in the custody of the Ghana Prison Service.
The spokesperson for the family, Mr Charles Nketiah, who is also the uncle of the deceased, made the appeal through the Daily Graphic in Sunyani. He said they were only informed about the death of their relative by prison officials after they had deposited the body at the Brong Ahafo Regional Hospital mortuary in Sunyani.
He said the family had been asked to go for the body of the late York for burial, since the service could not pay for the cost of the mortuary fees, as well as that for the post mortem to be performed on the deceased to establish the actual cause of his death, which he said the family had rejected till the cause of his death had been established.
Mr Nketiah disclosed further that the deceased died in prison and not in the hospital and therefore he was appealing to the government and the Minister of the Interior to set up an independent investigation body to establish his death in custody.
He said the late York had already served one and half months of his six months’ imprisonment and it was just last Wednesday, April 23, 2008 that the family was informed about his death.
Mr Nketiah stated that the convict was the only breadwinner for the family when he was fined to pay GH¢600; he was not able to pay the fine, since his wife was also nursing their four-month-old baby and for that reason could not raise money from anywhere to pay for the fine imposed on him and therefore decided to serve the prison term.
“We therefore learnt with shock that York had died in prison custody, since he was hale and hearty when he began serving the term of imprisonment and some members of the family even visited him in prison and he did not complain of any sickness till his death last Wednesday.”
When the Daily Graphic contacted the Sunyani Central Prisons authorities they confirmed the death of York with the explanation that the deceased convict was sick and was taken to hospital, but died that night after he was brought back to the prisons.
When the Daily Graphic contacted the Regional Police Motor Traffic and Transport Unit (MTTU), the Regional Commander, Assistant Superintendent of Police (ASP) Ansu Frimpong, confirmed that the deceased, who was a taxi driver in Sunyani, was arrested by Personnel of the MTTU last month (March) for road obstruction and failing to produce a driving licence, and he was processed for court.
The deceased appeared before the Duayaw Nkwanta Circuit Court presided over by Mr Emmanuel Yartey and he was convicted and fined GH¢600 or in default six months’ imprisonment with hard labour.