By Yankuba Jallow
Minister of Interior Yankuba Sonko told members of the National Assembly Select Committee on Human Rights and Constitutional Matters that the remand wing at Mile Two Prison is congested with Prisoners.
“The Remand Wing is definitely congested,” Minister Sonko said.
Sonko made this statement after the Select Committee observed that most of the cells at Mile 2 are congested especially the Remand Wing.
Prisons Director, Inspector General of Police and Minister of Interior all appeared before the Committee on Thursday, 5th November 2020 to discuss issues affecting their offices and chart a way forward.
Prison Director Ansumana Manneh said Mile 2 has little or no space for expansion since it is situated at a swampy area.
“Are you aware of the fact that the congestion has negative implications on the prisoners?” Ousman Touray the Parliamentarian for Sabach Sanjal asked the delegation.
“Of course it has health implications. If people are put together for that long it is obvious that there will be health implications. It is just something we cannot avoid because the courts are supplying the prisons with prisoners,” Minister Yankuba Sonko said.
Minister Sonko said he has given directive to the authorities at the prisons to give regular update on the number of prisoners at the cells so that the issue could be related to the Judiciary for them to go for fines instead of imprisonment.
Sonko said Mile 2 does not have space for new structures to be built upon, adding they are building new structures in Jeshwang.
He said the possible temporary measure to end the overcrowding of the cells is for the Judiciary to release prisoners on bail.
Minister Sonko told the lawmakers that the prisons authorities are obliged to admit people once they are brought with warrants.
He said their plan is to get convicts of between 10 years to life imprisonment at one place, juvenile prisoners in another place, female prisoners at another place and remand prisoners at one place, but it is not coming anytime soon because it needs finance.
DG Ansumana Manneh said UNDP has helped established virtual courts at Mile 2 in order to decongest the cells adding this has helped in decongesting the cells.
He said there is an ongoing construction of cells at Jeshwang Prison, which if completed will housed remanded prisoners from Mile 2.
Parliamentarian Yakumba Jaiteh said usually the hands of the courts are tied in granting bail when the prosecutions object to bail. She advised the police command to tell their prosecutors not to object to bail for offenses that are bailable. She said this measure will help in reducing the number of people in remand.