Africa

$1.5 Million UNDP Project To Improve Prison Services In Sierra Leone

UNDP

UNDP

The United Nations Development Program (UNDP), the UN agency which is working to eradicate poverty and reduce inequalities through sustainable development in over 170 countries and territories globally says, the Correctional Services in the West African nation of Sierra Leone do not yet “have the capacity to ensure the safety and security of inmates, staff and society. Prison infrastructure is outdated; quarters are overcrowded, lack ventilation and clean sanitary facilities; and medical facilities are substandard, resulting in poor health conditions. In addition,inmates lack sufficient nutritious food and water.”

Director-of-Prison Sanpha Bilo Kamara

Director-of-Prison Sanpha Bilo Kamara

According to the UNDP, a two year project under its Effective and Inclusive Democratic Governance cluster is aimed at “…implementing its Strategic Plan to improve life in correctional facilities, in accordance with Sierra Leonean law and its international human rights obligations.

In its explanation for undertaking the project, the UNDP says, “All human beings have inalienable rights and these rights must not be compromised – even during the legal deprivation of liberty. Humane prison conditions are a prerequisite of fair criminal justice systems. All pretrial detainees have the right to be considered innocent until proven guilty,and the deprivation of liberty should be the only punishment of sentenced inmates.

Poor detention conditions can be detrimental to inmates’ rehabilitation and reintegration to society. They are also a violation of the United Nations(UN) Standard Minimum Rules for the Treatment of Prisoners.”

According to the World Prison Brief (WPB), a global data base of prisons systems, Sierra Leone’s prison population, as of November, 2017, was put at 4,179 inmates. Of this number,about 2,112 are in pre-trial detention (50.5%). 32 women remain in pre-trial detention.

The average female population rate, according to WPB, was at 66 in 2006, 79 in 2010 and jumped to its present level of 136 in 2017; female prison population rate per 100,000 of the national population.

Female Inmates in Votech

Female Inmates in Votech

The UNP project, under the Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) guides its support for the promotion of the rule of law and ensuring that there is equal access to justice for all and transparency in the country’s judicial system “…actively seeks to reduce the pretrial and remand population in Sierra Leone..”

The United Nations says that it is a violation of its Standard Minimum Rules for the Treatment of Prisoners when detainees are held in poor conditions which contribute to their rehabilitation and re-integration into society.

“All human beings have inalienable rights and these rights must not be compromised – even during the legal deprivation of liberty. Humane prison conditions are a prerequisite of fair criminal justice systems. All pretrial detainees have the right to be considered innocent until proven guilty,and the deprivation of liberty should be the only punishment of sentenced inmates,” the UNDP says.

Human rights audits were held in 3 Correctional facilities in the West African country and 19 personnel including regional heads training on the UN Standard Minimum Rules for the Treatment of Prisoners. Sierra Leone has 4 regional Correctional Services Branches.

Inmates in Prison Library

Inmates in Prison Library

In a statement on its website the Director of Sierra Leone Correction Service Superintendent Sanpha Bilo Kamara writes that, “…we will live to execute correctional services; keep offenders[inmates] off the criminal human traffic and then transform them to form part of a health national human resource where they[inmates] will ride and travel towards economic growth leading to national development…”

But prison reforms which were advanced since 2010 continue to lag in full implementation. The country’s prison system is plagued by inadequate transportation, poorly prepared meals and living quarters, congestion, inadequate health care, poorly trained and underpaid prison staff, and often long pre-trial detention for detainees.Conditions fall below international standards.

The $1.5 million dollars projected which is supported with donor funds from the US Government ends in December, 2018.

By Emmanuel Abalo

West African Journal Magazine