A Presidential pardon has become the norm in Sierra Leone that’s granted twice a year; at New Years and during the country’s Independence Day celebrations in April. At the start of 2020, the President used his prerogative to release 534 inmates from Correctional Centres across the country. This year, the President pardoned the highest number of inmates in the country’s history. According to the Public Relations Officer of the Correctional Service, Leslie F. Cole-Showers, the recommended list of inmates that went to the President included inmates who have served more than half of their sentences and who have demonstrated good behaviour within the Centres. Showers said, “Inmates who were sentenced for traffic offences, loitering, found in wrong places in society, unlawful possession, among others, such as those enshrined in the Criminal Procedures Act of 1965, also benefited from a pardon. In January 2019, 248 inmates were pardoned and released by President Bio across Sierra Leone and only six of the 248 were women. As a way to mark the 2014 New Year celebrations, former President Koroma pardoned 157 inmates. In April, of the same year, he pardoned 188 prisoners across the country. This year, one of the lucky inmates was the first winner of the Miss Correctional Centre beauty pageant, Sia Kembe, 20, who was serving a five-year jail term for manslaughter for killing her boyfriend. She rose above 10 other contestants in the inaugural beauty pageant for inmates of the Freetown Women’s Correctional Centre in November 2019. Cole-Showers said Kembe was recommended for amnesty by the Prerogative of Mercy Committee. “She was sentenced to 5-years in prison for manslaughter, and had served more than half of her time. Her comportment in the Centre has been good.”
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Kembe was excited about her release, noting that she now needs to take care of her family and her victim’s family. “There is no peace and I want to reconcile with them,” she said. Cole-Showers maintained in the past, inmates who were sentenced for murder and manslaughter have been released on Presidential pardons. Only the President can do that with powers from Sec. 40(4)(e), of the 1991 Constitution of Sierra Leone.” According to a press release from the Sierra Leone Correctional Services on 1st January 2020, out of the 534 inmates pardoned, 27 of them were women. The Western Area Urban saw 260 inmates released followed by the North East Region who released 95 inmates.
By Mohamed J. Bah
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