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In Achieving the UN Minimum rules in Prison: Sierra Leone hopeful with CEP

May 24, 2021

Author: Samuel Ben Turay +23279550982

Samuel Ben Turay

This second article is certainly going to provide additional information supporting the previous publication two weeks ago.

I have indeed come to the conclusion that Africa does not only need good leaders but as well strong institutions that are capable enough to intervene in some of their governments areas of concerns. It might probably too late for the establishment of the Centre of Ex-Inmates Programme (CEP) NGO, in one hand but many believe that, it is better to be late than never. Furthermore, the founders of CEP are optimistic that the organization came at the time when it is direly needed most. And the good part is that, the idea drops in the heads of level headed individuals who have both local and international experiences in security and economic growth.

Brief about the intervention of the Centre of Ex-Inmates Programme (CEP) NGO

The Centre for Ex-Inmates Programme’s core priorities are:

1 Reintegrating released-inmates and other rejected persons into society.

2 Protecting the rights of children and young people whose parents are serving prison sentences from all forms of Abuse, Discrimination, Intimidation and Rape

3 Improve community safety, and

4 Campaign for Juveniles to acquire formal education and other skills while in detention and monitor their learning process even after serving.

The establishment  of the Center for Ex-Inmates Programme NGO and how Sierra Leone is hopeful in achieving the UN Standard Minimum Rules for the Treatment of Prisoners.

As previously said in the first article, few Sierra Leonean experts drawn from different professions such as: the Legal profession, Economic Development, Child Protection, Government Officials, Academics, Correctional Officers, the Media and Local Authorities have come together to complement government efforts to provide solutions to what the UN recommended as the minimum rules for the treatment of prisoners, by establishing the ‘Centre for Ex-Inmates Programme’ to reintegrate ex-inmates, promotes and protects the rights of children whose parents are in incarceration, monitors the education of Juveniles after released and stop Recidivism that are cited in rule 90 and 108 of the Nelson Mandela Rules adopted in 2015 and in Section (25) of the Child Rights Act of 2007 of Sierra Leone:

Rule 90 of the Nelson Mandela says: The duty of society does not end with a prisoner’s release. There should, therefore, be governmental or private agencies capable of lending the released prisoner efficient aftercare directed towards the lessening of prejudice against him or her and towards his or her social rehabilitation.

Secondly example, rule 108 of the same Standard Minimum Rules also says:

Services and agencies, governmental or otherwise, which assist released prisoners in re-establishing themselves in society shall ensure, so far as is possible and necessary, that released prisoners are provided with appropriate documents and identification papers, have suitable homes and work to go to, are suitably and adequately clothed having regard to the climate and season and have sufficient means to reach their destination and maintain themselves in the period immediately following their release.

Section (25) of the Child Rights Act of 2007 of Sierra Leone: No person shall deny a child the right to live with his parents and family and grow up in a caring and peaceful environment unless it is proved in court that living with his parents would-

  • Lead to significant harm to the child; or
  • Subject the child to serious abusive
  • Not be in the interests of the child.

The Child Rights Act of 2007 provides for the promotion of the rights of the child compatible with the Convention on the Rights of the Child, adopted by the General Assembly of the United Nations on 20th November, 1989, and its Optional Protocol of 8th September, 2000, and the African Charter on the Rights and Welfare of the Child, and for other related matters.

Sierra Leone is in good footing to achieving the United Nations Standard Minimum Rules, which would eventually make the country achieves GOAL 16 of the Sustainable Development Goal of the United Nations in {Promote Just, Peaceful and Inclusive Society} by 2030 with the newly registered NGO called the Centre of Ex-Inmates Programme NGO that would focus on the reintegration of released inmates.

The current crime rate in Sierra Leone and the aftermath of the 11-year war

Some 20 years ago, Sierra Leone had a brutal civil war led to the death of over 500, 000 people, over 257, 000 women raped, over 27, 000 left amputated, loss of property , with over 10,000-14,000 child soldiers recruited. 

This means that majority of the Sierra Leone youth population today were either being recruited as child combatants or experienced the 11-year war. These child soldiers were exposed to all forms of violence that the country is experiencing currently such as killing, rape, drug abuse and mutilation. 85% of inmates in all the correctional centres  across the country are people within the youth bracket age-from 15-38. The high level of violence is forcing the Sierra Leone Police to recruit more personnel every year and increases their annual budget. The government and its donor partners have spent a lot of money on both the Judiciary and the health sector. Nevertheless, preventing former inmates from being re-arrested for other serious crimes and the issue of spreading contagious disease from the newly released inmates, remain unaddressed.

The present position of the Country: The rapid increase in Sexual Violence cases has pressurized the government lately in a way that, last year 2020, President Dr. Julius Maada Bio had to declare a national emergency on rape with stiff laws to punish perpetrators. Drug addiction among the youth is alarming, and inmates incarcerated for the offense of wounding are very high in all the 19 Correctional Centers across the country. The Family Support Unit (FSU) of the Sierra Leone Police recorded 8, 500 cases of Sexual violence just in 2019. This situation made them asked for Le13. Billion budget to enable them carryout effective work.

The successes and challenges of the Judiciary

It will interest you to know that Sierra Leone has signed not less than 206 International treaties. Some of these treaties have been domesticated, while others are still under consideration. As you aware that making or changing the country’s laws is the responsibility of our legislative house (Parliament) in one hand, and the Judiciary’s role is to interpret and administer justice on the other hand. Despite the numerous challenges faced by the judiciary including the influx of cases in courts, difficulty in providing evidence for some cases, the manual storage of files on accused persons, and the unwillingness of some witnesses to testify among the host, there has been massive improvement in the justice sector.

The Judiciary has been on top of situation in expediting justice since the civil war ended some 22-years ago, to protect the country’s sovereignty to the best of their powers.

The Correctional Service (Prions) and the Centre for Ex-Inmates Programme partnership

In a partnership meeting with CEP’s top officials held weeks ago with the leadership of Correctional Service at their headquarters, New England Ville in Freetown, the Director-General (DG) of the Correctional Service, Joseph Lamboi said his institution is pleased to partner with CEP to push the idea of reintegrating ex-offenders.

The DG affirmed that the reintegration process of released inmates is key in clinching the United Nations Standard Minimum Rules for the Treatment of Prisoners which his institution is aiming at.  He said his institution is fully prepared to working with CEP to provide the required supports for individuals who have serviced their term to come back into the mainstream society and live productive lives through a successful reintegration program. According to the DG, there has never been an organization to complement government efforts to provide a safer stay for offenders after serving.

The Correctional Service chief, however, said since 2014 when the reformation at the Corrections started, there have been massive improvements in all the centres across the country, except the reintegration of offenders which has been their challenge. The DG continued that inmates are now learning different skills in jails with the hope that they would come out and have a safer stay, but unfortunately these individuals face society rejection, despite the skills they have acquired.

“We provide them with different skills while in being incarcerated, but because of society’s rejection after release, all the skills they leant do not benefit them,” he said. “I am now confident b that ex-con will have a peace when they are released through this reintegration drive of CEP.”

CEP board chairman, Dr. Gassan Abess who also doubles as one of the Commissioners of the Human Rights Commission said CEP came into existence after the realization of the gap in the criminal justice, which is also a barrier to achieving the United Nations Standard Minimum Rules in the Correctional facility.

“The first few months of a released prisoner are very challenging. During that period, they risk the danger of becoming homeless and/ or involving in other crimes. The fact is that they come out with no place to sleep, to shower, and even to keep their things is hard,” said Dr. Abess.

The chairman said a successful reintegration aids governments in economic growth on one hand and reduces the trauma of offenders after released on the other hand.

Dr. Abess said he has observed that the high recidivism rate shows that there has never been a re-entry program to stopping the cycles of crime.

“This means we were not providing adequate interventions to help offenders successfully reintegrate into and contribute positively to society. The reality is that, the country did not know enough about is the best way to have a successful re-entry program. But with CEP, there is going to be a solution,” he said.

Dr. Abess said, CEP complements the Criminal Justice system, as well as social stability and supports economic growth, by introducing positive steps in crime prevention, facilitating re-entry, and reduce recidivism. According the Board Chairman, children whose parents are serving sentences are  experiencing serious emotional and physical consequences, such as, provocation, sleepless night, stress, depression, and shame as society sees them as children of killers or rapist, which is against section (33) sub-section (1)  of the Child Rights Act of 2014.