The first ever report of the Human Rights Commission (HRCSL) of Sierra Leone for 2007 has described conditions in the prisons all over the country as appalling.
The report stated that conditions in prisons and other detention centers throughout the country were over crowded and facilities grossly inadequate as prisoners lived in squalid unsanitary conditions. Compounding the problem further, the report stated were the understaffed and poorly paid prison officers citing instances in Kono and Pujehun where prison officers went for 3 to 4 months without pay.
“To supplement the meager salaries prison officers interfered with the food and exposed the prisoners to excessive labour for their own benefit” the report noted
It further added that “a UNIOSIL assessment of prisons conditions concluded that corporal punishment, solitary confinement, reduction in diet and lack of exercise were routine disciplinary measures” used in the Prisons.
An estimated 1,161 prisoners were held in the Pademba road prisons, which was built for a capacity of less than 350 prisoners. In one of their visits to the prison, the report states they found 3 prisoners in a solitary cell sleeping on the bare floor as a disciplinary measure and when they enquired they were told by the prisoners that they have been there for a number of days.
The HRCSL report also quoted a UNDP report which mentioned that twenty prisoners died during the year as a result of acute malnutrition, lack of hygienic conditions, malaria and heart failure.
“The above conditions are in violation of the prisons Act 1960 and the standard Minimum Rules for the Treatment of Prisoners’ the report maintained adding that “The HRCSL found that remand inmates constituted the highest number of detainees and prisons continue to hold pre-trial detainees with convicted prisoners”. The report also noted that juvenile offenders were detained with adult prisoners and the detention facilities for juveniles in Freetown were in decay until its recent rehabilitation by the Justice Sector Development Project and detainees in such centers were poorly fed, lacked vocational training, proper supervision and access to prison rules. They shockingly noted that with the very limited available resources, there were striking imbalances in the provision of services and facilities for women in prison as against those for men.