The Newly constructed female prison has been officially opened and handed over to the authorities in Kenema city.
The Prison is located very close to the former state prison at the prison barracks along Maxwell Khobe Street in Kenema.
In her contribution the Assistant Inspector General of Police East Elizabeth Turay expressed appreciation to the donors for actualizing their long-term dream of seeing a conducive confinement area for women prisoners.
She said that having a structure is not sufficient as far as managing women prisoners are concerned. She made a special appeal to donors to actually consider the female prisoners in terms of other support. Women prisoners are often committed to prison when pregnant and are nursing mothers without support. Women prisoners are often left out without being capacitated to fully integrate in their community. It is all evidenced that support for men in prison is more than what women stand to enjoy in the area of educational skills training and adult literacy programmes.
She also appealed to the prison administration to make sure that women have the same opportunity as male prisoners while incarcerated.
Further explaining she disclosed that Women prisoners are often vulnerable in close environment and that they should be protected from physical abuses. Effect of imprisonment on women will also be very different from the effect on men she said.
Personnel who work with male prisoners need to be aware of all these issues so as to receive specific training for their role. Prison officers need to be trained to know the human right standard and to know how to deal with women at all time.
She appealed to DFID for the construction of juvenile holding centers at the police station and posts. This she said is because they have observed that the juveniles are highly engaged in serious crime especially within this region but most time they as police find it difficult to bring them in even for serious crimes because they don’t have the holding centers. “The SLP is finding it most difficult to prosecute most of these cases because of the lack of such facilities within police stations and posts” she said.
Speaking on behalf of the Judiciary in Kenema, the Magistrate Tonia Mbawa says they appreciate and applauds the giant step taken by the donors especially JSDP in enhancing the dignity of women who are in conflict with the law. This she said will help to de-traumatize some of these women in different ways.
On behalf of the High court Judge of Eastern Province Justice Nyawo Maturi-Jones she pleaded with JSDP to assist in the construction of a remand home for juveniles in Kenema, as they are becoming a menace to our society. The question of impunity will no longer exist in juvenile justice in this part of the country. She humbly pledged on behalf of the High court Judge of the Eastern province Justice Nyawo Maturi-Jones and herself that would they work assiduously to help minimize the problem of overcrowding in this prison cells by fast tracking cases brought before them.
In his statement the Assistant Director of Prisons who is also the Regional Commander Western Area and Masanki Sanpha Bilo Kamara said the building marks a milestone in the history of the Sierra Leone prisons service.
He said his Administration conceptualized the project of building a female prison in Kenema, in a senior officers meeting, which was later sold to the Justice Sector Development Programme (JSDP) that eventually gracefully bought the idea.
He expressed thanks to JSDP that went throughout and secured funding for the building of the Female prison in Kenema, and expressed hope that the remaining two provincial regions in our country notably the South and Northern regions will in the time to come also have female prisons.
He confessed that the prisons Administration inherited structures in all our penitentiaries wherein Female and male inmates share the same compound with demarcation fences or walls between them or in some other prisons no demarcation. “We usually encounter inconveniences and abnormal issues are usually experienced, creating embarrassment to our administration, a situation that does not auger well for prisons in the twenty first century” he said.
On behalf of the Acting Director of Prisons, the prison Administrator vowed to provide and conform to all laid down United Nations minimum standard rules that will be provided for all Female inmates. “The august body also needs to be informed that the Female wing at the Freetown Central Prisons at Pademba road in Freetown is now overcrowded, so with the provision of this female wing in Kenema,
I hope it will reduce the female population influx at the Freetown Central Prison” he said.
He maintained that JSDP has done a lot for the prison Department, saying “they have refurbished six prison officers quarters at Bo and constructed two new buildings, refurbished thirteen prison officers quarters in Kenema and one new building, constructed ten living quarters for officers at Kambia and ten living quarters in Magburaka. They have also constructed two buildings as quarters for officers at Moyamba. Presently, they are building a new prison at Mattru Jong in the Bo district and they have embarked on a lot of rehabilitation programmes at the Freetown central prison Pademba road.”
In his keynote address the Resident Minister East Hon. William Juana Smith expressed his thanks and appreciation to the donor DFID that is providing such facilities for all in this country. He disclosed that he has been an inmate at the central prison in Freetown where he saw deplorable conditions in which they were living, both men and women put together in one place within the same compound. Now it is realized that human beings sent to prison are there to be punished but also to rehabilitate them he said.
Minister Smith noted that some people even get worst when they are sent to those places. He advised the police and the judiciary that people are not sent to prison to punish them. Prison is supposed to be a rehabilitation center, an area where people can even learn a trade which they have not done, they can even go out and be a teacher or missionary to other people telling them about their experience in prison.
He called on all and sundry to behave themselves according to the laws of the state so that they will not be inmates of the prison.