Prison only showed me new ways to make a living through criminal means – Yaw’s story

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My name is Yaw, 42 years of age and a native of Kumasi (Krofrofrom) in the Ashanti Region of Ghana. I became a street boy at the age of 16 after the death of my mother. I became a school dropout due to my inability to afford my education. I did not want to know my father, but my mother died when I was young. 

I was left all alone to find answers to my life problems. I became a street boy and a ‘hustler’ and had to join other street friends at the ‘Kejetia’ market to find answers to my life. Joining my peers to live for the rest of my youthful days, I ate, played and slept with them in the same area, the market square.

I was therefore introduced to ‘weed’ (marijuana) by my peers on the streets, and it was something that was very familiar on the roads which all the boys in the area smoked. I enjoyed smoking because it made me forget all my problems and (gave me) strength and energy to carry on with the daily activities that mostly got me some money to take care of myself while in the streets.

I later started mixing weed with some whitish substances (heroin). I enjoyed that stuff for some period and later on started using crack. I became dependent, I could no longer stay for a day without using it. My whole life revolved around the drug; all the money I made from the street was used to buy my drugs.

For years, I have been using these substances and later added alcohol, making me a polydrug user. I became a dependent user and could not do anything without using it. I feel sick and depressed if I go without using. They told me that I had developed withdrawal symptoms. I had to leave the market and relocate to the ‘Bonka’ (where the drugs are sold) to get the drugs quickly. I became a ‘Bonka’ man (serving customers with a pipe used for the crack) to collect monies for those purposes. 

All my life is centred on drugs and nothing else. Unfortunately, we were arrested by the Narcotics Board security group led by inspector Kofi Boakye. The police took us to court. The magistrate in Kumasi sentenced us to two weeks on remand at the Kumasi Central prison with hard labour. I still have those memories very fresh in my mind. After that, I was released, and I relocated to Accra for a change of environment but found myself in the same situation.

Life in prison was worse for me, and I think it worsened my situation. I even graduated from being just a drug user to a hardened criminal because, in prison, I met guys who taught me bad things to help me survive on the streets.

With all honesty, I want to plead to the authorities that those who use drugs are not necessarily criminals, even those who do petty stealing; it’s because they need to support their habits. We need help and not prison.

Please tell the authorities to come to our aid, we need their support to get treatment.

If I have a way to stop, the best way would be to be accepted in society and locate my family member(s) in Kumasi.

Finally, the people who use drugs should not be imprisoned, since my detention on remand made me know many criminal activities while in prison.



Yaw’s story was compiled by Maria Goretti-Ane (IDPC / WADPN). This story has been edited for clarity.