SEPTEMBER 1, 2014 By Victoria Saffa
Some one hundred (100) disadvantaged inmates incarcerated at the Pademba Road maximum prison without any legal representation are to benefit from free legal service courtesy of a new project launched by non-governmental organizations, Don Bosco Fambul and Caritas Sierra Leone.
Under this pilot one-year project, worth up to thirty thousand United States dollars (US$30,000), youthful inmates with minor charges will be provided with a lawyer and two paralegals to enable them get justice before the court, and also help them with rehabilitation and counseling services.
Speaking at the launch of the project last Friday, Director of Don Bosco Fambul, Brother Lothar Wagner, said the legal support is a significant move as it will help inmates uphold their rights and receive justice, adding that the Pademba Road prison should be a rehabilitation and correctional centre where inmates will engage in basic training and educational skills to enable them become better citizens after their release.
He said inmates that will be catered for by the project include those who have committed minor offences like breaching of traffic rules, loitering, and buying of stolen properties, among others, but who were given sentences not commensurate to the crime committed.
Regional Commander Western Area in the Sierra Leone Prisons Department, who is in charge of inmates, Ransford Williams, described the project as very vital as “it will help reduce the high rate of congestion in prison facilities”.
According to him, there are over one thousand, nine hundred (1,900) inmates presently detained at the Pademba Road prison; a facility built to accommodate a little over 300 prisoners.
He showered praises on Don Bosco Fambul for its “relentless effort in helping inmates”, noting that with the intervention of the organization two years ago, some of the deplorable welfare conditions of inmates have been improved, citing the provision of daily first-aid treatment and also pure water and good sanitation for inmates.
In his statement, the Director of Caritas, Father Peter Konteh, said the prison shouldn’t be a place to condemn people but rather a place of rehabilitation, stating that the justice system needs more transformation.
“Everyone should have an opportunity to be listened to and we are also going to facilitate the legal process so that inmates will have fair justice,” said Father Konteh.
He revealed that his organization is collaborating with Don Bosco under the Justice and Peace Commission to seek the interest and welfare of disadvantaged inmates and also collaborate with the prisons authorities.
According to the Catholic Father, one of the expected benefits of the project is to see that up to 50 disadvantaged inmates are released with fair judgment after one year.
Before now, Don Bosco and Caritas had been providing support to the Sierra Leone Prisons Department like constructing water wells, providing good medical facility to boost the health of prisoners, food and clothing and also skills training.
The two organizations promised to provide more support to the Prisons Department.