chapter  1
17 Pages

‘Insufficiently cruel’ or ‘simply inefficient’?

Discipline, punishment and reform in the Gold Coast prison system, c. 1850–1957
WithStacey Hynd

This chapter argues that the figuration of imprisonment in the Gold Coast was also a result of dialogical tensions between 'civilization' and 'violence' within colonial and imperial governance, and that to fully understand the tensions which shaped punishment historians need to consider the interconnections between penal, political and moral economies of empire in Africa at local, colonial and imperial levels. The chapter highlights the tensions between individual reform, the need for 'discipline' and the creation of productive labour, particularly when the prison system became increasingly overcrowded with short-term inmates. A political economy analysis of colonial punishment alone does not fully explain the development of colonial prisons: the cultural and discursive norms which shaped penal policy must also be considered. The development of criminal justice and imprisonment in the British Gold Coast was intermittent. With economic development and post-war unemployment, the role of prisons in colonial economies declined.