By Sahr Eric George
Freetown, SIERRA LEONE – In a courtroom presentation led by State Counsel Aruna Jalloh before Justice Abubakarr Binneh Kamara, Mr. James Albert Ansumana, the Welfare Officer at the Pademba Road Correctional Centre, appealed for the relocation of the Male Correctional Centre from Freetown to Masankay. Ansumana cited overcrowding and congestion as the primary reasons for this request.
Addressing the court, Ansumana highlighted the challenges posed by the current location, emphasizing that the original capacity of the center, built for 324 inmates with one per cell, is now compromised with five to six inmates per cell. The current capacity exceeds 2,000 inmates, hindering the activities of officers and causing discomfort among inmates.
“We had suggested relocating to Songo, but right now we want the centre to be relocated to Masankay,” stated Ansumana.
Responding to questions about sanitation, Ansumana acknowledged that due to the overwhelming number of inmates, sanitation has become a significant challenge. He revealed that inmates still use the bucket system, particularly at night, sleeping with the buckets in their cells and emptying them in the morning.
“Sanitation is a challenge for us as inmates are still using the bucket system, especially at night,” Ansumana explained.
Despite these challenges, Ansumana informed the court that inmates are supplied with water, soap, paste, and brushes. He also discussed the capacity-building efforts at the centre, where inmates receive training in various skills such as tailoring, carpentry, and shoemaking.
In response to a question about a library, Ansumana confirmed the presence of libraries for both male and female inmates, supplied by Don Bosco Fambul. He also addressed the health facility, stating that a temporary hospital hosts 20 inmates following the burning down of the original hospital during the attempted prison break in April 2020.
Ansumana assured the court that inmates are well-fed, receiving three meals a day, including bread and tea in the morning. He further emphasized the exercise of religious rights, with the centre providing spaces for both Christian and Muslim worship.
Concerns were raised by Lawyer Cecilia Tucker from the Legal Aid Board regarding the use of the bucket system, labelling it as archaic and barbaric, potentially violating the human rights of inmates.
Jalloh requested permission for a team of lawyers from the Legal Aid Board to pay an unannounced visit to the centre, partake in the inmates’ meals, and verify the quality of the food. Ansumana concluded by urging the court to relocate the centre to Masankay due to congestion and the challenges associated with its current location in the city. SEG/21/11/2023