Housing Facilities At Mile II Prisons Substandard, Unfit For Human Habitation 

386

According to the Truth Commission, housing facilities at State Central Prison Mile II, are substandard, degrading and not fit for human habitation. 

The Commission therefore said that “considering the cost and complications of rehabilitating the facilities, it imperative to build other  new facilities that would be suitable for prisoners in a modern democratic society.”

See below the continuation of the serialisation on Theme 16 of the TRRC Report and the position of the Government as stated in it ‘White Paper’ document that was recently shared with the public by the Minister of Justice.

  • Testimonies revealed that life in Mile II was made even more unbearable by the harsh treatment meted out against the prisoners. Political prisoners who were also mainly detained in the security wing in Mile II, often had 23 hours confinement with limited interaction with the general prison population. In relation to the treatment of the convicted prisoners and those on remand, the public hearings showed that the prison officers were grossly neglectful of the condition of prisoners contrary to general modern standards on the treatment of prisoners. Several witnesses who testified before the Commission indicated that some of the prisoners were subjected to solitary confinement for extremely long periods in addition to being shackled and handcuffed (in some cases for up to 2 years). In such cases, the extreme punitive measure of restricting the movement of the prisoners resulted in paralysis for some.
  • Witness testimonies also indicated that the prisoners’ diet was terrible and, in most cases, not fit for human consumption. The poor quality of the food resulted in malnutrition and beri-beri (Vitamin B-1 deficiency also called Thiamine deficiency). Witness testimonies indicated that beri-beri was the leading cause of morbidity and mortality at the Mile II Central Prison. Witnesses also reported that sometimes they were served with rotten fish or meat or that the food was simply inedible due to poor preparation or storage.
  • Individuals with cases of communicable diseases such as tuberculosis were not quarantined thus exposing other prisoners and staff to infections. There was a lack of care for prisoners with mental health issues putting such individuals and other prisoners in the same cells thus putting them at risk from violent attacks. A prisoner was found to have slit his throat to get attention for medical assistance and some prisoners suffered mental illness as a result of the ill-treatment and poor conditions. Access to medicine and medical care was inadequate and prisoners had to depend on illegal sources to acquire medicine.

Recommendations from        the   TRRC     and  the position    of              the  Government:

  • The Commission, having considered the totality of the evidence, made the following recommendations:
  • Appointments to all positions in the Prison Service, in particular leadership positions, should be based on merit and appropriate academic qualifications. An approved Schemes of Service should be developed for the Prison Services detailing the minimum qualifications for each position and providing all categories of staff equal opportunity to progress in the service without any form of discrimination.
  • The Government accepts the recommendation of the Commission and is taking measures to ensure that the Prison Service is managed by competent personnel as part of the Government institutional reform agenda. Furthermore, the Vetting Bill which is currently being reviewed is expected to guarantee the right people serve in the right positions.
  • To repeal and replace the existing archaic prison laws with more human rights oriented and progressive laws that meet the requirements of a modern democratic society and the United Nations Standard Minimum Rules for the treatment of Prisoners.
  • The Government accepts the recommendation of the Commission. The Prisons Act has been reviewed and revised to bring it in line with international standards and is expected to be presented to the National Assembly soon for adoption.
  • The housing facilities in Mile II Prison are substandard, degrading and not fit for human habitation. Considering the cost and complications of rehabilitating the facilities, the Commission deems it imperative to build new facilities that would be suitable for prisoners in a modern democratic society.
  • The Government accepts the recommendation of the Commission and notes the minimum standards which it is legally obligated to uphold. Following the rapid assessments of the prison system that was conducted, the Government is committed to developing a strategy and a roadmap for

the modernization of the prison system in line with the Mandela Minimum Standard.

  • It is inhumane and cruel to have prisoners sleep in toilets or be jam- packed like sardines. The government should provide enough facilities to cater for the requirements of the prison population.
  • The Government accepts the recommendation of the Commission and takes note of the minimum standards which it is legally obligated to uphold and is committed to taking deliberate steps towards realising this objective as part of the ongoing reform process. The Government has started work to modernise the Mile II Prison including changing the water and the drainage system.
  • The Jeshwang Prison for young offenders should be geared towards rehabilitating rather than punishing and should be resourced with recreational, educational and counselling facilities.
  • The Government accepts the recommendation of the Commission. The Government recognises that the social rehabilitation and reintegration of persons deprived of their liberty are among the main aims of the criminal justice system, ensuring, as far as possible, that offenders are able to lead law-abiding and self-supporting life upon their return to society. The Government in collaboration with its partners has introduced training courses at the prisons including Jeshwang Prison and will continue to take concrete steps to create rehabilitation programmes for young offenders to support them to realise their potentials and reduce their chances of re- offending.
  • Janjanbureh Prisons is also in need of rehabilitation. Whilst the female prison population is small a proper cell needs to be provided for the female inmates.
  • The Government accepts the recommendation of the Commission and is committed to addressing the numerous challenges within the prison service as part of its wider prison reform agenda. A modern wing has recently been completed at Janjanbureh Prison for female offenders.
  • Long periods of pre-trial detention have been a major problem in all the prisons in the country. The government should put in place a system that would ensure that pre-trial detainees are tried within a reasonable period of time and in a manner respecting all their rights.
  • Government accepts the recommendation of the Commission. As part of the Government’s efforts to decongest the overcrowded prisons and accelerate the adjudication of criminal cases, particularly cases where the accused person is in remand, the Judiciary has set up a Committee to address the existing challenges which contribute to denying accused persons’ the right to be heard within a reasonable time. The ongoing digitalisation of the Judiciary is also expected to address the existing challenges in the expeditious disposal of cases.
  • Government should provide adequate subvention to the Prison Services to ensure proper provision and maintenance of food and the general upkeep of the prison system.
  • Government accepts the recommendation of the Commission.
  • All cooks and food handlers who work in the prison should always be given the appropriate training necessary to be able to discharge their responsibilities effectively and efficiently. The government should put in place a system to provide regular medical check-ups for cooks and food handlers in order to ensure that they are not transmit communicable diseases.
  • Government accepts the recommendation of the Commission and is in the process of finalising an agreement to train the cooks and food handlers and will continue to take necessary measures to safeguard the health and welfare of prisoners through the Prison service reform agenda.
  • Provide modern cooking facilities in all prisons.
  • Government accepts the recommendation of the Commission and can confirm that progress has been made in this area. Modern cooking equipment and utensils have now been introduced at the Mile II Prison. The diet for the prisons have been reviewed with changes made to it however, the Government will continue to implement the necessary measures to discharge its obligations.
  • The Prison Service should enter into Memorandum of Understanding with the Ministry of Health to attach qualified health personnel in the various prison clinics and provide adequate/ appropriate training for prison staff attached to the clinics.
  • Government accepts the recommendation of the Commission and is committed to working towards the realisation of a prison service that is fit for purpose and in line with international standards.
  • All prisons should be provided with adequate quarantine cells to contain infectious diseases or persons suffering from these diseases should be removed from prison and placed under adequate care until they recover to continue their prison term. This is even more critical now in view of the COVID 19 Pandemic.
  • Government accepts the recommendation of the Commission and is committed to implementing the prison reform agenda.
  • Government should ensure inspection of prison facilities by competent persons at regular intervals to ensure that the facilities are clean, safe and fit for human habitation.
  • Government accepts the recommendation of the Commission and is committed to implementing the prisons reform agenda. Visiting Committees as provided in the Prison Act will be reconstituted to be monitoring the conditions in prisons. This will complement the monitoring of prisons conducted by the NHRC.
  • All prisons should have an ambulance for quick and easy referrals to the nearest health facility.
  • Government accepts the recommendation of the Commission. The government will work to ensure that all prisons are provided with a minimum of one equipped and functional ambulance.
  • Justice sector personnel should conduct capacity building training for their staff to fast- track remand and appeal cases so as to ensure that persons in remand do not spend more time than is necessary in jail and to reduce overcrowding in the prisons.
  • Government accepts the recommendation of the Commission and will continue to work with justice sector actors, development partners, and relevant stakeholders to identify sustainable strategies for dealing with cases judiciously and expeditiously.
  • Review and revise existing sentencing guidelines in order to avoid imposing long custodial sentences for misdemeanours and other petty offences, especially those committed by young persons.
  • Government accepts the recommendation of the Commission. The government will support the Judiciary as it develops the sentencing guidelines to ensure sentences are commensurate to the offence committed and are uniform to avoid conviction for similar offences receiving varying sentences.
  • The state should develop alternative systems to imprisonment to ease overcrowding in prison such as probation, community service etc.
  • Government accepts the recommendation of the Commission. The Criminal procedure Bill contains provisions that will introduce community sentences for certain offences. Through the Ministry of Interior, the Government will be developing mechanisms that will address individuals places on probation.
  • The Prison Service should provide effective rehabilitation programmes aimed at educating, training and re-training inmates. In addition to livelihood skills the programme should include life skills training to help the prisoners make decisions about their everyday life experiences and help them to integrate back into society after they are released and prevent re-offending particularly among young offenders.
  • Government accepts the recommendation of the Commission. Through the support of partners the government has increased the programmes available to prisoners. However, the government will progressively be increasing and expanding these programmes.
  • David Colley, Ebrima Jammeh (Chief torturer), Yahya Jarju, Saikouba Jarju and Muhammed Jabbi should be prosecuted for tortures meted out on prisoners such as Samba Doro Bah. It is noted that Malang Tamba has apologised to his victim and reconciled with him in a reconciliation activity at the TRRC.
  • Government accepts the recommendation of the Commission.
  • The female prison officers who were denied incentives and promotions for refusing to submit to sexual violence by the DG of Prisons David Colley and senior government officials in 2007 should be promoted to the levels of their colleagues who were not subjected to any form of harassment or unfair treatment.
  • Government accepts the recommendation of the Commission in so far as the matter has been investigated and appropriate measures taken.
  • The NIA or any other security institution shall not be given direct administrative responsibility over a prison or any part of it, except administrative oversight thereof.
  • Government accepts the recommendation of the Commission.
  • Government should put in place rules in order to ensure that the prison service is not used as an institution for torture and that no one should be given access any prisoner or Prison except in accordance with the law.
  • Government accepts the recommendation of the Commission.
  • Review and restructure the salary levels of the Prion Services to bring them to the same level of the other security services.
  • Government accepts the recommendation of the Commission and confirms that the process of pay scaling and pay grading is currently ongoing as part of the civil service reform.
  • Fanta Sanneh and Buba Jatta should be recognized and rewarded for the good services rendered.
  • Government accepts the recommendation of the Commission.
  • There should be a remand wing for the female prisoners isolated from the Female Wing.
  • Government accepts the recommendation of the Commission and will take the necessary steps as part of its prison reform agenda.
  • Female prisoners should be held in the least restrictive environment possible.
  • Government accepts the recommendation of the Commission and will take the necessary steps as part of its prison reform agenda.
  • A mother and children’s units should be developed and expanded.
  • Government takes note of the recommendation but takes note that it is contrary to international human rights standards and section 218 (2) of the Children’s Act which prohibits the imprisonment of nursing and expectant mothers.
  • A proper cell needs to be provided for the female inmates in Janjanbureh Prison.
  • The Government accepts the recommendation of the Commission and has completed the renovation of a cell for female inmates at Janjanbureh Prison.
  • Skills learning facilities should be provided for the female prisoners
  • The Government accepts the recommendation of the Commission and has recently introduced a number of training courses for all prisoners including female prisoners.