• January 29, 2024

NO DEMARCATION BETWEEN FEMALE AND MALE INMATES

NO DEMARCATION BETWEEN FEMALE AND MALE INMATES
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By Sahid Bangura

 

As part of the effort of the Auditor General and its Audit Team in unearthing farfetched activities that are embedded in some public offices, the Sierra Leone Correctional Service, after a serial inspection of the correctional centres within the Western Area, has been implicated of doses of scandals.

 

It is supposed that correctional centres are to only circumspect inmates of different crimes, as prescribed by law, not the other way round of stationing them between life and death. But what if it comes to light that Sierra Leone correctional centres are designed to serve as a death zone for defaulters? The question might sound combative, but come to think of it! Among many other correctional centres around the globe, Sierra Leone’s correctional centres are one of the few correctional centres that cage inmates (male and female) like fowls.

 

For instance, following the Audit Service Report of “Inmates not segregated in the correctional centres in the Western Area, “it was recorded that, “At the facility in Waterloo, there was no demarcation to separate the female and the male sections.” This is a clear justification that of all the financial support only few has been done in catching up international standards. The report also implicated the correctional service of not segregating the inmates base on their respective crimes committed; “We observed that inmates (those convicted of serious offenses, those for minor offenses and those on remand) were not segregated. Additionally, repeated offenders or those with a criminal history were kept together with first-time offenders.”

 

Although the official response of the Sierra Leone Correctional Service states that there are plans of relocating the male correctional centre to Somewhere at Masanke in a bid to resolve the overcrowding challenges, we in this medium deemed it to be a shortcoming promise; it is a strategy of over-clouding the report. Base on analysis of the Audit Service Report, there correctional centres are overcrowded, as record indicated that there are 57% of inmates who are on trial or remand, and 43% of convicted inmates; adding that, “the male correctional centre was intended to house around 324 inmates but it is now holding 1,757 inmates. The same is true that the female correctional centre at New England Ville which was built to hold 18 inmates now holding 110 inmates.”

 

Due to the above assertions, the correctional centres are currently faced with poor management of disorderly behaviour and violence of inmates in the centres, health risk, lack of medical attention and education, and deficient security personnel.

 

Highlights on the Audit Report also show that there are lack of surveillance system at the correctional centres within the Western Area, and lack of in-built toilet facilities in the prison cells. The proper functioning of installed Colsed-Circuit Television (CCTV) is very much paramount in environments like correctional centres. It is to everyone’s knowledge that places of such are vulnerable to brutality, drug dealing, sexual offence, and even murder. The Audit Report stated: “The Audit team conducted physical verification in some areas of operations of the SLCS in the Western Area and observed that the correctional centres at New England Ville (Female and Re-integration) and Waterloo (Pre-trial) did not have a Closed-Circuit Television (CCTV) system. The centres at Pademba Road (Male) had a CCTV system that was not functional at the time of our visit (2nd February 2023).”

 

Due to the absence of CCTV, there is a possibility of inmates involving in violent behaviour leading to injuries and deaths, abusive of inmates, trafficking of illegal goods or theft, breaching of orders, failure of identifying culprits.

 

The report noted: “Rule 15 of the United Nations Standard Minimum Rules for the Treatment of Prisoners (the Nelson Mandela Rules) of 2015 guides on the sanitary installations for prisoners to comply with the needs of nature.” Based on the inspection of the Audit Service, inmates of the Western correctional centres are being dehumanized to the extent that they do not have in-built toilets in their cells, causing them potential health hazards.

 

It was also recorded: “Maintaining good sanitation is vital for the well-being of inmates, staff and other stakeholders. Based on discussions and physical verification of selected prison cells in the Western Area, which hold at least six persons every night, we observed that there were no in-built toilets in the cells. At night, the occupants will, in turn, take a plastic bucket into the cell and use it during the night and clean them up the following morning, or in some instances the disposal is delayed. Of grave concern was that these buckets were placed in the same cells where the inmates sleep. This situation is dehumanising and poses lots of health hazards to inmates.”

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