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Sierra Leone News: Prisons Bill goes Pre-Leg

The Minister of Internal Affairs, Joseph Bandabla Dauda, was among officers of the Sierra Leone Prisons Department in Committee Room 1 of the House of Parliament for a Pre-Legislative hearing on the Correctional Services Bill.
The Minister explained to MPs that the drafting of the Bill came as a result of the fact that there have been no proper control over Prisons, no human resource capacity, delay in court processes resulting in overcrowding, poor management of prisons records, no separation of remand and convicted prisoners, among other anomalies, which his ministry had viewed as serious concerns.
He said that the prison at Pademba Road, which was built in 1914 for just 374 prisoners, had quadrupled its initial capacity, with a population of nearly 2,000.
The Minister said that this has given cause to serious overcrowding with a stench of human rights violations.
The minister moved that the 1960 Prisons Ordinance that provide rules for the management of the current prisons, has far outdated its essence in modern day management of prisons services. And as a result, the Correctional Services Bill, if passed into an Act, will make provisions for the operation of a prison services that will ensure the smooth management of the center.
He said that the prisons should be a place where offenders of the law are placed for corrections, so that when they are released, they are integrated into the community to become vital citizens. But sadly, he said, the 50 year-old rules are no longer compatible with modern and contemporary standards in management, the effectiveness of prisons and inmates.
The Internal Affairs Minister noted that while prisoners are behind bars, they remain full citizens of the country; and as a result, their basic human rights should be upheld.  This, he said, means that a legislation that will take onboard modern prisons facilities is brought into force in a bid to weed out these outdated principles.
Taking members through the nitty-gritty of the drafted bill, the Minister quoted that Clause 9 establishes the Correctional Council that will be a body responsible for the administration of the Correctional Centers.
He said that the council shall have the powers to make recommendations on issues relating to the correctional services to the President of the country.
Furthermore, he quoted, Clause 25 states that juveniles should no longer be detained at the Correctional Centers; whereas Clause 57 gives powers to inmates to petition the council through the would-be Director-General of the Correctional Services.  And that while clause 69 talks about the due process of the law in terms of punishment of inmates, clause 60 states that habitual criminals should be released and subjected to thorough supervision.
Moreover, he mentioned, clause 70 ensures the involvement of the public on matters affecting the center and its development; which he considered a step in moving the prisons away from isolation.
He also said that clause 72 says that no inmate shall be punished until that person is certified to have committed the alleged crime; which he considered as a principle that follows a natural justice system.
He mentioned that clause 75 calls for medical examination to be done before punishment is meted out. And that clause 91 observes the welfare of inmates.
The Director of Prisons, Sampha Bilo Kamara said that with the current 17 prison centers in the country, amidst poor management facilities, there is need to repeal the 1960 ordinance and conform it to modern prisons administration.
Therefore, he said, with the passage of the bill, adequate provisions will be made to effect their operations.
He said that the Correctional Council will expedite the affairs of the would-be centers and make room for expansion and professionalism. `
He revealed that a Canadian has already been hired to see the smooth transition from the current prisons to correctional services.
He will be based at the headquarters of the prisons, while the process will be ongoing.
However, during deliberations, Hon. Mustapha Brima observed that in a typical African setting, there is need for some high-handedness in enforcing discipline.
He therefore questioned even with the current awful state of the prisons, some people are still willing to go there when they commit offences, what will happen if standards are improved?
The Hon. PC Bai Kurr Kanagbaro Sanka III also questioned among other lapses, the correctional facilities that are put in place ahead of the passage of the bill.
By Poindexter Sama
Tuesday May 27, 2014

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