By Alusine Sesay
Commissioned on 14 March 1914 by the then British Governor-General Clarkson, one of the oldest edifices in Sierra Leone, the Pademba Road maximum security prisons will clock one hundred years come 14 March this year. To celebrate the milestone, the Department of Prisons has lined up a week-long activities, beginning with Muslim and Christian thanks giving services on this Friday and Sunday respectively, to football matches, ceremonial parade, international conference, exhibition, cocktail, buffet and dinner.
Addressing pressmen at the Prisons Junior Officers canteen on Pike street in Freetown, Director of Sierra Leone Prisons Department, Sanpha B. Kamara said the department has come a long way since, with discipline being a cornerstone of his administration.
“Officers are always ready to respond to any emergency that may occur. I have instituted discipline at the department and all officers now know their responsibilities,” he said.
He much has been achieved during the century, including overseas training for personnel, resuscitation of the prison dance band, the construction of junior officers canteen, induction training of 300 recruits, update of the prison officers training school curriculum, training of trainers on gender and equal opportunities, upgrade of officers salaries and the establishment of two new ranks in the cadre- Deputy Superintendent and Chief Officers Class I.
In the area of mainstreaming human rights in the service, Kamara said the department has popularized the Robben Island Guidelines on Torture, Prevention and Needs of Inmate, while two prison officers participated in a specialized human rights course in Mozambique, while another two were participants at the United Nations probation course in peacekeeping in Accra, Ghana.
He also disclosed that the department now ensures equal opportunities for all officers, with female officers accorded special privilege to attain leadership positions.
“Female officers [have] started having the opportunity to superintend and manage prisons housing both male and female inmate, a move that has enhanced gender parity in the service,” he said.
The prisons department has also scored numerous successes during one hundred years of existence, including the construction of a showroom close to the female prison at the former Special Court detention facilities in Freetown for the exhibition of items manufactured by inmates; a separate wall fence demarcating the male and female prisons in Port Loko; a perimeter wall at the Kabala prisons; a library at the Freetown Central Prisons; and construction of a pre-primary school which is now in use.
Narrating the historical background of the Sierra Leone Prisons Department, Director of Human Resources, Joseph Lamboi said the legal incarceration of persons in breach of the criminal law started in 1787 in Sierra Leone, with prisoners locked up in abandoned slave ships.
He disclosed that the first physical structure was constructed at the current location of State House, the seat of the presidency, and was later moved to where Connaught hospital is at present situated, before the Pademba Road maximum security prison was constructed in 1914 and commissioned on 14 March of same year.