• January 26, 2024

S/L Correctional Services Gross Human Rights Violations!!!

S/L Correctional Services Gross Human Rights Violations!!!
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By Alusine Fullah

Sierra Leone’s Correctional facilities provide dire conditions of detention for the inmate population which in turn contributes to serious human rights abuses. In recent Audit Service Report, it was found that prolonged pre-trail detention, lack of an effective and bail and slow judicial process coupled with the resourcing of the correctional facilities contribute to overcrowding and service human right violations in the detention facilities.

Despite the Audit Service Sierra Leone recommendations in previous audit reports, the Sierra Leone Correctional Service continues to commit gross human rights violation. According to Audit Report, there is no surveillance system at the correctional centres. In line with that, section 5(1) of the Sierra Leone Correctional Service Act of 2014 states: “The Director General, as head of the Service shall have responsibility for the operational control and administration of the Service and the control and supervision of all inmates’ subject to the directions of the Council.”

Contrary to the provisions on the Humane Treatment of Persons Deprived of their Liberty contained in the United Nations Standard Minimum Rules for the Treatment of Prisoners (the Nelson Mandela Rules) of 2015 and despite recommendations in previous financial and performance audit reports, we observed that the correctional centres were still overcrowded. An analysis of lock-up inmates’ records indicated that 57% were either on trial or remand, compared to 43% of those convicted. The male correctional centre was intended to house around 324 inmates but it is now holding 1,757 inmates. The same is true for the female correctional centre at New England Ville which was built to hold 18 inmates now holding 110 inmates. This overcrowding at these centres could result in the following problems:

The report also found that there has been no demarcation to separate the female and the male sections. The report states: “Inmates not segregated in the Correctional Centres in the Western Area Contrary to the United Nations Standard Minimum Rules for the Treatment of Prisoners (the Nelson Mandela Rules) of 2015, we observed that inmates (those convicted for serious offences, those for minor offences and those on remand) were not segregated. Additionally, repeated offenders or those with a criminal history were kept together with first-time offenders. At the facility in Waterloo, there was no demarcation to separate the female and the male sections.”

According to Prison Cells Rule 15 of the United Nations Standard Minimum Rules for the Treatment of Prisoners (the Nelson Mandela Rules) of 2015 it guides on the sanitary installations for prisoners to comply with the needs of nature. 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, the report 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.

The report also captured that the Correctional Centre in Makeni lacks facilities to cater for infant children of female inmates. It states “Lack of Facilities to Cater for Infant Children of Female Inmates Section 35 of the Sierra Leone Correctional Service Act of 2014 stipulates that no infant child of a female inmate shall be received into a correctional centre unless there are adequate facilities and provision within that correctional centre for the care and maintenance of infant children of female inmates. Contrary to the above provision, the audit team found four toddlers in the cells of the female section of the Makeni Correctional Centre which had no facility to accommodate children below the age of three years. Three mothers of the infant children were convicted, and a mother was on remand. Moreover, no special diet was provided for the children; they fed on the regular diet provided for the mothers and sometimes from donations from charitable organisations. We recommended that adequate arrangements be put in place to accommodate inmates and their children below the age of three years. Moreover, special diets should be provided to cater for the children’s needs…”

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