Charles Ameyaw has witnessed the problems surrounding Ghana’s prisons from within. Determined to improve the system, the corrections officer has traveled a vast distance in search of solutions he can bring back home.
Ameyaw is one of American University’s 12 Hubert H. Humphrey Fellows. The program provides 10 months of nondegree academic study and related professional experiences in the United States. Participants are selected based on their potential for leadership and commitment to public service.
AU has hosted the prestigious State Department program since 1980. For the past eight years, the Washington College of Law has welcomed lawyers, judges, and advocates from around the globe.
“We are talking about midcareer professionals who are coming from developing countries,” said Melanija Radnovic, WCL’s international programs coordinator. “During the year they work on professional development, expanding their networks, and trying to get in touch with their counterparts in the United States. They also take academic courses related to their specialization.”
Ameyaw has a background and multiple degrees in counseling and psychology. A deputy superintendent of prisons for the Ghana Prisons Service in Accra, he specializes in inmate rehabilitation.
“I want to focus on human rights in the prisons,” he said. “I work in the prisons and I know the conditions. In most cases human rights organizations from outside come to work in the prisons. Unfortunately they might not know exactly what goes on. I know the problems the prisoners are facing, the law that governs the prisons, and what we have to do for the prisoners to be able to reform and rehabilitate them for successful re-entry.”
But the system isn’t always smooth, so Ameyaw is hoping his academic year at WCL will provide him with a blueprint for reformation. He hopes to design programs to support inmates who have been denied access to justice and have overstayed their sentences.
“I want to study the U.S. system, the re-entry programs here,” he said. “Back in Ghana we don’t have re-entry programs for prisoners. They leave the prison walls, we don’t have any contact with them. We don’t support them in any way. If you don’t train them and help them get a job, it means they are likely to come back.”
Ameyaw’s specific story may be unique, but his passion for the law and desire to improve life in his homeland is shared among his Humphrey colleagues.
Eniola Adejare Fabamwo is chief magistrate at the Lagos state judiciary in Nigeria. She pursued a fellowship to help with her goal of designing a program in comparative criminal justice policy with regard to noncustodial sentencing options and pretrial rights of the accused.
“I have worked in the criminal justice system for 14 years, and I find that there still is so much that we need to do in terms of reforming the system,” she said. “Sometimes cases take up to 10 years. We have to find out what are we doing right and what are we doing wrong.”
AU is one of just 19 universities that host the program, administered by the Institute of International Education. The 2010–2011 fellows are:
• Aruna Gamini Aluthge, Sri Lanka
• Charles Ameyaw, Ghana
• José Paulo Baltazar Jr., Brazil
• Eniola Adejare Fabamwo, Nigeria
• Hristo Lyubomirov Ivanov, Bulgaria
• Koku Dzifa Kokoroko, Togo
• Guogang Li, China
• Yongjie Li, China
• Cynthia Marcial, Argentina
• Thulani Rudolf Maseko, Swaziland
• Viengsavanh Phanthaly, Laos
• José Sebastián Roa, Chile