May 20, 2019
By Hassan Gbassay Koroma
Ten juveniles who were among the over 200 prisoners that were excused of their offences without exacting the required penalty by President Julius Maada Bio on the country’s Independent Day will today (May 20) be released to join their families, according to Prison Watch Programme Manager, Ahmed Saliue Jalloh.
Jalloh was updating journalists at their Gabriel Street Office in Freetown on the monitoring his organisation did in three juvenile homes across the country.
He noted that the juveniles were formally freed by the pronouncement of President Bio, but that they were still held because government and other organizations were putting things in place to ensure they join their families with some logistics.
“On the 27th April as mandated by the country’s constitution, President Julius Maada Bio performed his presidential pardon by setting free hundreds of prison inmates including ten juveniles for the first time in the history of the country,” he said.
He noted that as an organization they were very happy that for the first time juveniles benefited from the presidential pardon process after they have made several calls from past regimes.
He told newsmen that the population as at 16th May 2019 in the three juvenile homes in Freetown and Bo were total of 123 including four girls.
He said the physical detention condition of juvenile homes remained very harsh especially in Bo, noting that the home was initially constructed as a store but was later converted to house children in conflict with the law in that part of the country.
He said the cells were very hot and dark, adding that the sleeping beds were made up of cement blocks with no mattress, thus forcing the children to use cardboard, clothes to sleep on.
He stated that water and sanitation also remained a perennial problem at all the homes in the country.
“The children homes are not well taken care of.We have reports of cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment unleashed on the boys by detention authorities. We have report of prison officers beating the boys in the Bo remand home and this is an issue we are taking up with the prison authorities,” he said.
He said lengthy pre-trial detention of children was also another huge concern, noting that food supplies in the homes continue to be delayed as a result of the delay in the payment of contractors that supply food items to the homes.
He said the contractors have stopped supplying foods to the homes and that they now receive monies from the ministry of Social Welfare, Gender and Children’s Affairs to buy food items for the children.
He said part of their report stated that the home managers have ran out of funds to buy food stuff, adding that there was no medical facility in the juvenile homes and not even practicing health personnel attached to the home.
He further that through the support of the Danish Institute Against Torture, Prison Watch Sierra Leone held social intervention sessions at the Approve School once every week.
He said those sessions have served as platform geared towards redirecting the minds of the children towards meaningful and productive lives and that it has contributed significantly towards rebuilding the dignity and personality of the children.
He said there was an on-going formal schooling at the Approve School with support from the United Nations Development Fund which includes the provision of uniforms, shoes, teaching and learning materials.
He said they have also provided support for livelihood skills training for the children in the Approve School, including tailoring and carpentry which is also helping to keeping the children busy throughout the day.