Ex-Prisoner Alleges Frequent Death at Mile 2
Friday, June 15, 2012
In a seven-page letter which was made available to The Daily News, an ex prisoner has painted a graphic picture about what could be described as inhumane and degrading conditions of the country’s main prison, Mile 2, situated at the outskirts of Banjul, the capital.
The ex Mile 2 inmate, who goes by the identity Jerreh Fatty of Kanifing, alleges that the rate of death of prison inmates is under-reported, and only the death of prominent figures attract public attention.
“The mortality rate of prisoners is very high, but the information is closely guarded,” he says. “The extreme heat, poor sanitary environment, unhealthy diet, stress and mistreatment are possible reasons for deaths.”
Jerreh’s reaction came barely two weeks after this paper reproduced US State Department’s findings on deplorable conditions of Gambian prisons.
The Gambia has three major prisons: Mile 2, Janjanbureh and Jeshwang, though there believe to be some local jails. These jails are reported to be generally shut from independent inspections.
In its 2011 human rights report, US government says as at end of December 2011, there were approximately 1,000 inmates in the country’s prisons. This figure is more than double the intended capacity of the prisons.
“Prison conditions were poor with overcrowded, damp, and poorly ventilated cells. Inmates complained of poor sanitation, food, and occasionally slept on the floor. Detainees were allowed to receive food from outside prior to conviction, but not afterwards. Medical facilities in prisons were to be poor.”
These allegations, according to Jerreh, are true, but only represent what he calls “the tip of the ice bag”.
He continues: “Making matters worse is that prisoners are dumped together without any form of differentiation. Convicted drug dealers, robbers, child molesters, rapists, political prisoners, and the mentally disabled are all locked up in the same cells. A visit to building No: 5 at the Mile 2 security wing would confirm this.
“Even those with contagious diseases, such as tuberculosis, are kept with the rest. There have reportedly been violent clashes between lunatic inmates and other prisoners. Despite court orders, authorities refused to transfer the mentally disabled to appropriate treatment facilities.”
Meanwhile, The Gambia Prisons Services dismissed as unfounded allegations of frequent death of prisoners, even though in the recent past, death of two inmates in two weeks under controversial circumstances had been confirmed.
“Death is unavoidable but it is not true that death occur frequently in the prison,” Commissioner AnsumanaManneh told this paper in an exclusive interview at his office on Wednesday.
He added: “We are under a ministry and we have a proceeding of reporting deaths. We report every death to the Ministry of Interior.”
Editor’s Note: Read the ex prisoner’s letter as well as the interview with Commissioner Manneh on Page 4 & 5 respectively.
Author: Binta A. Bah