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Pademba Prison Overcrowded

Pademba Prison Overcrowded

The overcrowded state of the Pademba Road has been blamed on the slow pace at which the courts in Sierra Leone process cases. Already, the overcrowding of the maximum prison has resulted serious consequences on the smooth running of the prison including security, the control and resource availability including food, beddings, water and medicinal drugs.

The Pademba Road Maximum Prison was built in 1914 with a capacity for 324 inmates but is currently housing more than a thousand Sierra Express Media has been informed. Officer-in-Charge, Court Escort Unit Mr. Sampha S. Sesay told Sierra Express Media that the main cause of the overcrowding can be blamed on the courts. “There is a big delay in the justice system in the country,” he said.

“Overcrowding leads to scarcity of resources and produces a serious threat to the control of inmates as opposed to the relatively few officers available to man the affairs of the jail yard” Sampha said.

The prison officer further disclosed that the Appeal and Trial Courts for the rainy season has contributed in raising the numbers at the prison as it is only remand prisoners that are taken to court with little judgment passed on them, leaving most of the remand inmates to spend unnecessarily long stay in the prison without any lead as what their fates are. Citing instances, he related that on Monday 31st August 2009, sixty-nine prisoners were taken to court but only 25 of them had access to court sittings whilst the rest spent all the time in the court lock up and were later sent back to jail with no certainty about their fate.

SEM has also been informed that most of the lawyers have gone for vacation and are therefore not available to see to cases of their client whether in jail or being the complainant. A visit in the prison yard indicated that many of the inmates are being left to suffer at the yard for years now, based on minor and dismissible crimes such as loitering, petty thieving and pick pocketing. Some of the prisoners explained that their matter is not being considered simply because they do not have lawyers to represent them in court.  Officials reveal that a staggering number of 89 people on average are brought to the prison facility every week.

A senior citizen and human rights activist noted that more than 95% of cases that go to court are adjourned on a daily basis, giving rise to the situation which is occurring in prison faculties in the country, but especially in the Pademba Road Prisons. He cautioned that if this continues, it will lead to absolute chaos one day that has the tendency to unleash unprecedented threat to the peace of the society.

The Master and Registrar of  the Courts has supported the claims of the prisons officers in stating that “certain complainants do not usually follow up on their cases thereby creating a stock pile of cases to line up without much to do about them.”

The prison department’s Regimental Commander of the Western Area Assistance Director Sampha Billo Kamara expressed deep concern about the overcrowded situation and complained that “though the problem is not caused by the prison services, it is left to be dealt with by us, the prison officers,” he said. Mr. Kamara stated that the Prisons Service has held a series of meetings with the Judiciary over the matter but that much has not been done to alleviate the situation.

Investigations carried out by SEM indicate that the Judiciary is also greatly understaffed and as such it is not able to manage the present chaotic situation. Investigations reveal that each Provincial Region in the country has only one resident magistrate to presiding over matters, serving the 16 prisons in the country.

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