23rd April 2017
"2,100 Inmates at Pademba Prison," Legal Aid Board Boss Discloses
By a press release (16/04/17)
The Legal Aid Board boss has noted that it is unacceptable that Pademba Road Prison in Freetown is currently housing over 2,100 inmates.
The LAB Director Ms. Carlton-Hanciles made this startling disclosure when members of the Legal Aid Board paid an on the spot visit to the Legal Aid Board Office in Waterloo where they interacted with clients. (Pictured: Emaciated prisoners at Pademba Road Prison. A shameful scene that government must reverse asap).
Ms. Carlton-Hanciles and team also interacted with the Magistrate for the Waterloo Court Ms. Macauley, staff and police prosecutors. She stressed the need for collaboration to decongest the Correctional Centres.
"The Pademba Road Correctional Centre has over two thousand one hundred inmates as we speak and this is not good for us in the Justice Sector," the LAB boss lambasted.
She encouraged the Magistrate to refer minor cases to the Board’s Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) in Waterloo to decongest the court. She also observed that some accused persons granted bail cannot find sureties because the conditions are stiff. "This is an area you should also look at," she stressed
Ms. Carlton-Hanciles floated the idea of setting up courts in the Correctional Centers as part of a strategy to decongest them. "These courts will ensure those who are due for release are released and those who should go to court do so without any waste of time," she said.
The Executive Director of the Legal Aid Board, Ms. Fatmata Claire Carlton-Hanciles and other staff of the Freetown Office made part of the visit where they interacted with twenty-two clients with women accounting for the majority.
Ms. Carlton-Hanciles spoke to some of the clients about their complaints majority of which were maintenance cases. She also touched on the quality of service provided by the staff. She assured that they will received the same quality of service as clients in the Freetown Office and other parts of the country where the scheme has got an office.
"You have to be patient with us because we do not have enough staff to service you all at the same time but we will continue to do our best with the resources at our disposal," she assured them.
The Defence Counsel, Lawyer Tholley and Paralegals Arnold Dixon and Gibril Jalloh briefed the Ms. Carlton-Hanciles and team on the volume of cases received per day. Ms. Carlton-Hanciles assured that steps are being taken to improve the office with furniture, computers, fan and air conditioners.
"There is need to improve the working environment for you and our clients as the numbers accessing the scheme continue to increase," she noted.
She underlined the need to work closely with the police, the Magistrate Court and stakeholders in the justice sector noting that the successes of the scheme are linked to the relationship with these institutions.
The Organiser newspaper cannot still understand why Pademba Road Prisons, established by British colonialists over 100 years ago to house ONLY 300 prisoners, continue to be overcrowded in the 21st century.
The government must do something NOW to remedy this eyesore. Reducing the number of prisoners and renovating the dilapidated and sordid prison cells in the Howard, Wilberforce, Blyden, Clarkson and the Female buildings will go a long to usher human rights to our unfortunate brothers and sisters in detention many imprisoned for very minor offences.
Many politicians in this APC government who had graced these cells, years gone by, had openly vowed to refurbish Pademba Prisons when they take power. But it is a shame that the Organiser newspaper is yet to see that golden promise come to fruition.
Even in some western democracies like the UK, prisons have become very challenging for many countries but these governments are doing everything possible to improve these human rights problems. Hopefully, Sierra Leone will follow suit and do the right thing.