There are over 4,000 incarcerated prisoners across the country. According to John L. Coker of Prison Watch, the high crime rate and Magistrates refusing to grant bail to accused in minor matters is the reason for the high incarceration rates. On Monday 7th October 2019, Coker said there are 4,616 prisoners across the country. Coker said the cost for feeding each prisoner is Le16,000 per day. Over Le67 billion per year is spent just on feeding prisoners. He said if the judiciary adheres to the Bail Regulations of 2018, especially for minor offences, and stops restrictive bail conditions, it would save the Government billions of Leones. In Kenya, Article 49(1)(h) of their Constitution gives an arrested person the right to be released on bond or bail, on a reasonable condition, pending trial. The Minister of Finance, Jacob Jusu Saffa, had earlier said that Government generates about Le450 billion per month and over Le200 billion goes to wages/salary. Other domestic problems have a very huge burden on the revenue generated.
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According to key findings of research on Bail Regulations of 2018, launched on 4th October 2019, by the Centre for Accountability and the Rule of Law (CARL), Magistrates consider the following factors before granting bail; First, the seriousness of the offence, the character and relationship of the person facing trial; the health status of the person, and public safety of the victim and public at risk. Other considerations include; persons below the age of 18-years, mental incapability, lactating mother, pregnant women, care providers, etc. Magistrate Mark Ngegba of Court No. 1, said the issue of bail is a crucial one in the judiciary. He said bail conditions largely depend on the circumstances under which the offence was committed. “Two people could be charged to court for the same offence but when granting bail we pay more attention to the circumstances in which the offence was committed.” He noted, “When bail is granted people feel the matter is over and sometimes drag their feet to attend Court, and once they are brought in on a bench warrant, they are remanded.” Assistant Superintendent of Police, Ibrahim Mansaray, lead prosecutor, Freetown Magistrate Court No. 1, said the congestion at the Male Correctional Centre is as a result of the fact that there is always a delay in trials, which, he said, is because some witnesses and complainants are not willing to come to Court to testify.
By Sulaiman Karim Sesay
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