April 7, 2015 By Ibrahim Tarawallie
Prison Watch Sierra Leone has expressed grave concern over the lack of vehicles to convey inmates to court in Port Loko, especially when the court sits outside the township.
“The magistrate in Port Loko, like in other places, covers three jurisdictions: Lungi, Masiaka and Lunsar. This in itself poses serious difficulties. Since April 2014, there had been no High Court sittings for inmates attending court in the Kambia and Port Loko Correctional Centers,” said Prison Watch Director, Mambu S. Feika.
He told a presser in Freetown last Thursday that only one prison vehicle is deployed in the north, which is home to six correctional centers located in Makeni, Port Loko, Kambia, Kabala, Magburaka and Mafanta.
He revealed that getting the solitary vehicle, which is usually stationed in Makeni, to convey inmates to court is a huge challenge as the police are most times relied upon for help.
He claimed that in Port Loko, court sittings are arranged between the police and the magistrate, a situation he said has affected harmony in correctional centres as prison officers have alleged that they only learn about court sittings when inmates present warrants from the police.
Feika maintained that inmates held in the Correctional Centre in Port Loko have blamed Correctional Officers for deliberately skipping court sittings.
Also, the Prison Watch director expressed grave concern about children who are supposed to be taking the ongoing Basic Education Certificate Examination (BECE) but are being held behind bars for committing minor offences like loitering and public gathering.
He said they would put out statistics of children who are currently held behind bars across the country, especially those that have been deprived of the right to write the BECE examination.
Despite the enactment of the Child Rights Act and other statutory instruments that should protect children, Mr. Feika noted that challenges still exist in the implementation of these laws as children are still being held behind bars for minor offences.