But Even Minimum Standard is What We Lack at Prisons
Friday, June 15, 2012
In this regard, the courts when imposing punishment take into consideration possibilities for the convict to be turned into a better person through rehabilitation. In the same vein, prisons have become centres for correction. In many parts of the world, convicts are generally sentenced to serve terms of imprisonment so that they can learn from their mistakes, and when they come-out, become not only law abiding, but productive. In order words, after someone has served in a prison in a conducive environment, he or she should come out reformed. Whereas those treated otherwise become worse, and therefore remain a torn in the flesh of the community in which they live.
In some other parts of the world, there are technical workshops within the prison set up. During their tenure, prisoners are exposed to skills learning opportunities. They are not subjected to inhumane treatment, the objectives of those authorities, and countries are to reform criminals.
What however obtains in The Gambia is rather unfortunate. The prison system is still the archaic type that the colonialists left us with. For instance, An annual Human Right Report released by the US State Department indicates that, our prison conditions were poor with overcrowded, damp, and poorly ventilated cells. Inmates complained of poor sanitation and food. Inmates occasionally slept on the floor. Such are not ideal for a correction centre, and can hardly produce reformed persons.
The report says the detainees were allowed to receive food from outside prior to conviction, but not afterwards. Medical facilities in prisons were poor, lighting in some cells was poor and during the summer months temperatures were extremely high, and there were no ceiling fans or other measures to reduce heat.
According to the report, at the year’s end there were approximately 1,000 inmates in the country’s prisons, more than double the intended capacity. These allegations are confirmed by an inmate who told this paper that what was reported is the tip of the ice bag. As typical of the Gambian authorities, they denied the claims as unfounded.
While we quite agree with the Commissioner of The Gambia Prisons Services that prisoners should not expect to have the conditions of a hotel at the prisons, we would like to put to him that minimum standard is what is lacking in our prisons. Rather than defending the indefensible, it is important for The Gambia government to partner with stakeholders in improving the inhumane conditions of our prisons.