Prison conditions all over the country have not been encouraging especially the way prisoners are treated by prison officers, which for most of the time is badly.
Chief Officer class two, Randolph George of the Kabala Prisons, explained that the Kabala prisons has 10 cells for male prisoners and 2 for female and that each cell room is expected to contain at most six prisoners. “Currently, there are 44 prisoners in the prisons, including one female” and that the prison is expected to house a capacity of 75 inmates.
He disclosed that the cases that mostly take people to prison are those of cattle stealing and sexual offences. The prison officer who happens to be the second in command of the Kabala prison also disclosed that, the longest serving prisoner is a female who is serving a three years prison sentence for wounding.
“As a prison, we ensure we respect the basic rights of all prisoners; they have access to people who come to visit them, they have food every day, and everything that basically makes somebody lives a good life. Only that we restrict them from enjoying their freedom of movement, but all what the prison is supposed to provide them with, we ensure they get all”.
Mr. George denied that they have ever allowed prisoners to be used as laborers by people in the community, “only that if somebody is a carpenter and there is a way of getting them [prisoners] to go and do some exercise, we will allow that, but not on commercial purposes. At times we take them to our gardens just to exercise”. He said, they have no basic tools to train prisoners except agricultural tools
Speaking on the constraints they are faced with in running the prison, Randolph George said, they lack transportation facilities to take prisoners to the High Court in Makeni whenever a matter is transferred to the High Court by the Magistrate. “We are staying very close to the border with Guinea and if there is any problem, we have no transport system to take our prisoners to Freetown. At times when we want to go for prisoners supply, we are compelled to use commercial vehicles”, George said and “we don’t even have a bicycle”.
George also disclosed that prisoners lack toiletries and medicine. “It has taken a long time since the prison in Kabala was supplied with drugs and toiletries. We have a nurse and not a doctor and for most time when prisoners fall sick, we take them to the government hospital for treatment and the hospital has been very cooperative with us in that direction”.
With regards the only female prisoner in the prison, Randolph George said, he has always ensured that, she is not abused since there is a female prisons officer who manns the gate leading into her [female prisoner] cell room.
However, he said, since he was transferred to Kabala, there has never been an escape of prisoners. “There used to be such reports but since I was transferred here, that has never occurred”. He appealed to the government to look at the prison conditions in Kabala.
Meanwhile, speaking to Awoko, Dalba Samura, the only female prisoner said she is not encountering any problems with the female prison officer. “I eat twice a day. There is enough water only that we have no soap to wash”.
She disclosed that she was jailed for wounding but that the person that she wounded normally visits her in prison. She disclosed that she has five children, the younger being three years old, and that the eldest, a girl, got pregnant when she was sentenced to jail. “I never had the intention of wounding, only that I was very angry at the time. I am pleading of mercy, let the president look into my plight, I am a mother of five,” she said, weeping. She also called on Human Rights organizations to look into her plight and see what could be down to save her from continuous suffering in prison.
Another prisoner, Abu Bakarr Sillah, who is being held on remand said, he was sent to prison after he had an encounter with his father in Kabala over Mango. Contrary to what the prison boss said that, prisoners get food thrice a day, Abu Bakarr Sillah said, the food that is provided them is not enough and called on the authorities to look at the plight of prisoners in Kabala.
“We have no problem with the prison officers here, only that we are getting small food but we know that is not the fault of the officers since they are providing us what is given them”, he said.
By John Baimba Sesay