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One Lady, 2 Hats: The Story Of Patience Baffoe-Bonnie

“Everybody deserves a second chance to be better and when that is done, it makes the world a better place to live in.”

This is the personal conviction that motivated young Patience Danso-Baffoe, as she was then known, to enlist with the Ghana Prisons Service immediately after completing sixth form.

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At that time, many of her friends tried to discourage her from embarking on that career path as they believed she was better off pursuing a university degree first before building a career.

However, she stood her ground and with the support of her parents, applied and got enlisted as a Second Class Officer, the lowest rank in the service.

After 35 years of service, her decision has not only paid off by rising through the ranks to be a Director of Prisons (DOP), but Mrs Baffoe-Bonnie has built a professional career for herself, after she was called to the bar.

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“When I decided to enlist for the Prisons Service, many of my friends did not understand why I chose that career path because I was good academically and could gain admission to a university.

“Worse of it all, they did not understand why I chose the Prisons Service instead of the Military as the rank at which a sixth form graduate entered the Military was higher than that of the Prisons Service.

“However, I chose the Prisons Service because it had initiated a plan to move away from recruiting middle school leavers to getting more educated women, so I was interested in that as it would provide me with opportunities too.

“After 35 years of service, I have no regrets of my decision as I have had a fulfilled career in the service,” Mrs Baffoe-Bonnie said as she shared her experience with the Daily Graphic.

Among the notable achievements she has earned are the role she played in establishing the Legal and Health Departments of the service, making the James Camp a more vibrant and a model for the modules of the service and helping to re-establish the prisons in Liberia after the war, when she went on UN Peacekeeping duties in that country.

Responsibilities

As the Director of Prisons in charge of Technical Services and Special Operations, she is in charge of the logistical needs of the service and all related issues that the Prisons Service provides which are not part of the core mandate.

“It is a huge responsibility but understanding the system due to the experience gained on the job has helped me greatly, and I have a supportive team who also share in my work ethics and ideals,” Mrs Baffoe- Bonnie said describing her current role.

Well-travelled officer

In her career duties with the service, she has worked at almost all the units that serve the core mandate of the GPS, serving with eagerness and determination to be the difference.

“From my first posting at the James Fort Female Unit through to Nsawam, Sekondi and Kumasi, the desire was always to discharge my duties to the best of my ability.

“This has greatly helped me in my career as I have worked at all the units of the service — reformation, legal, operations, technical services and welfare and that has positioned me to fully understand and effectively play my role in ensuring that the core mandate of the service is always carried out.

“Indeed, it has been that and my desire to serve humanity that made me pursue a degree in social work and then followed up with a career in law,” she said in an interview.

Having been called to the bar, she worked as the Chief Legal Officer for the service for about 10 years; she was the advisor to the Director-General on policies, issues on legalities from within and without the service, and she might have carried that responsibility well as without much hint, she was given the responsibility to restructure the Legal Unit.

Think prison

Affirming her conviction, Mrs Baffoe-Bonnie said when she set out to work, she did not see it as working for herself, but rather for those who depend on the service.

She explained that for every opportunity she had had, especially leading a team to discharge a role, her mantra had been ‘Think Prison’ in a bid to get team members motivated and also show empathy towards prisoners in the discharge of their duties.

“As officers, we are the only ones who can best tell our stories and get people on board to support; in thinking prison, we also remind ourselves that we can help make life bearable for those whose mistakes overtly or covertly have landed them in trouble with the law,” she said.

She is married with grown-up children and she said as a mother, she found it very worrying to see many young people falling foul of the law and being incarcerated. She, therefore expressed the hope that the system would help to transform them as they deserved another chance to be better persons.

She admitted that in the line of duty and having worked closely with prisoners, she was more than convinced that no matter what crime one committed, that person deserved another chance to be a better person.

“I remember one time when an 18-year-old male was brought to the facility and as a mother, I was wondering what would have brought him there. During one of the counselling sessions, I found out that he had been brought there because he could not pay the fine imposed for stealing a mobile phone, we mobilised funds to pay the fine and gave him something to put him through a trade; recently, he returned, grateful for the second chance and I was proud of what he had been able to achieve with his life,” she said.

Peacekeeping

When she was deployed to Liberia as part of the United Nations Mission in Liberia (UNMIL) in 2003, she was attached to the Corrections Advisory Unit to help in re-establishing Monrovia’s Central Prisons, the highest security facility and then assisted in establishing two more.

From the modules operated by the Ghana Prisons Service, she helped the facility to adopt the innovative way of getting the inmates to farm to feed themselves, as well as learn other skills to help them become self-sufficient.

She said the situation then was dire and it had to take some ingenuity to get the prison officers and the inmates to adapt.

“I am happy to note that most of the systems I helped established have been maintained and now form part of the active non-core mandate of the Liberia Prisons,” she said.

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233shadow

Shadow a.k. Thomas Evans Selah-Ahegbebu is an avid writer of entertainment and life style stories. I love to meet and learn new ways of doing things. Topics of interest are; Medicine, Entertainment & Life Style

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