17 May 2019

Sierra Leone: Overcrowding, Poor Hygiene At Makeni Correctional Centre

A monitoring exercise carried out by the Chairperson and Commissioners of the Human Rights Commission of Sierra Leone (HRCSL) has revealed several challenges at the Makeni Correctional Centre.

Despite progress noted during the commission's regular visit, the monitoring on Monday May 13, 2019, brought out overcrowding, poor hygiene and Medicare as some of the challenges that needed urgent attention.

The commission noted a total number of 250 inmates in detention, which exceeds the capacity of 80 inmates for which the centre was established.

From the number of inmates currently at the centre , there were 50 convicted males and 3 convicted females, whilst 130 males and 5 females were on trial with 48 males and 5 females on remand. There were only few elderly persons out of the 250 inmates as the rest are in their youthful age.

Challenges regarding the availability of safe and clean drinking water, inmates in one cell ranging from 40, 50, 60 and 70, and some inmates on long or frequent adjournments, were observed.

The inmates complained bitterly about lack of ventilation in their cells and the roof, and that the ceiling was made of zinc that produces more heat during the dries.

During the monitoring, HRCSL observed that majority of the male inmates were without their jumpers on and that they were with either boxers or the correctional short trousers.

"To show how seriously they have been affected because of lack of ventilation or sanitation, most of them showed how their penis and balls have been eaten up with scabies or 'karangba'. Some had scabies and bumps all over their bodies. It was also observed that because some of the inmates could not pay their fines as low as Le100,000 and Le150,000 for petty offences, they were remanded."

Commenting after the exercise, Chairperson of the commission, Patricia Narsu Ndanema said: "The general conditions of the correctional center fall below the UN Standard Minimum Rules for the treatment of Prisoners and the Guidelines and Measures for the Prohibition and Prevention of Torture, Cruel, Inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment in Africa (Robben Island Guidelines) adopted by the African Commission in 2002".

She called on the judiciary to take concrete steps to accelerate matters in courts, as well as charge others to court, especially for detainees on remand.

She also urged the Ministry of Internal Affairs to take urgent steps to replace the ceiling and increase the ventilation of the cells.

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