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Sierra Leone News: Pardoned prisoners complain about prison conditions

Some of the prisoners granted early release under the traditional New Year’s presidential pardon under section 63 (1a) of the Sierra Leone 1991 Constitution expressed concern and displeasure with the conditions at the facility while serving their time.
Though an Act of Parliament transformed the Sierra Leone Prisons Service to a Correctional Service in 2013, prisoners alleged that the facility remains pretty much the same.
The essence of the transformation, which was to ensure that the department changed its focus from prisons to correctional functions with the ability to provide better facilities through the Ministry of Internal Affairs, enhance reforming inmates seemed defunct, some of the prisoners further alleged.
The Sierra Leone 2016 Human Rights report states, “Prison and detention centre conditions were harsh and potentially life-threatening due to food shortages, gross overcrowding, physical abuse, lack of clean water, inadequate sanitary conditions, and lack of medical care.”
Some ex-prisoners said their experiences were like the 1994, Hollywood blockbuster prison movie, “Shawshank Redemption”, which plot pivots around corrupt prison officials.
These prisoners alleged that some Prison Officers have inmates who do business for them. Ex-prisoners have complained that Prison Officers use their positions to do business, sell food stuff and make money.
Pardoned inmates allege “at times they come with cigarettes and sell it to us for Le8,000 and we sell to make Le2,000 profit…” Adding that they also sell water, soap and food inside the facility, which must of them have to buy.
One of the prisoners said, “the Correctional Centre is not good. It is not up to standards as a correctional centre … the food is not sufficient, even the tea we have in the morning is not good for us. We observed that it gives us a rash, and the bread they give us is only half a loaf.” While another alleged that eight of them were living in a cell.
A prisoner who has being incarcerated for over a year said one of the major problems he had while serving time is with regards to medical and health. “I had headache, the nurse had the bold mind to give me a single tablet saying that it would cure my pain… they are killing inmates slowly. One of my friends died in less than a week…” he said.
The National Public Relations Officer of the Sierra Leone Correctional Facility, Superintendent Suleiman Salieu Turay, refuted the allegations. “These allegations are untrue. Pademba Road is not a business centre.” He explained that the food prepared by the facility is to serve the inmates and not for sale.
Speaking about inadequate medication, the PRO said that the exact medications are provided for inmates in order to avoid over dose or drug abuse.
By Ophaniel Gooding
Tuesday January 09, 2018.

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