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Prison Watch fears Ebola spread in correctional centers

…says prisons are congested

DECEMBER 15, 2014   By Hassan Gbassay Koroma

CONCERN … CEO of Ebola Response Center, Rtd. Major Alfred Palo Conteh
CONCERN … CEO of Ebola Response Center, Rtd. Major Alfred Palo Conteh

Prison Watch Sierra Leone has expressed fear of a looming Ebola outbreak in correctional centers across the country due to over congestion.

The organisation’s Director, Mambu S. Feika, told journalists last week that their correctional centers decongestionproject has enabled them access 462 criminal files in Freetown, and secure bail for 117 accused persons, while 43 cases have been committed to the High Court and 66 discharged.

Feika disclosed that in Bo, out of 58 criminal files they have been working on, they secured bail for 15 accused persons, while one case was committed to the High Court and another discharged.

He noted that in Kenema, out of 188 criminal files they have secured bail for 79 accused persons, with three committed to the High Court and nine discharged. In Makeni, among 58 files 17 got bail, while four cases were committed to the High Court and nine discharged. In Port Loko, there were 38 files, from which three accused got bail, as four cases were committed to the High Court and one discharged, he explained.

The Prison Watch Director said infrequent court sittings in the provinces is a major challenge to justice dispensation, which he attributed to few magistrates having to cover more than one jurisdiction. He added that the magistrate in Port Loko sits court in Lungi, Masiaka and Lunsar.

“Court sittings are arranged between the police and the magistrate. This has affected the harmony in the correctional centre; most times officers have alleged that they only know about court sittings when they see inmates with warrant from the police, and that inmates held in custody have blamed the correctional officers of deliberately not taking them for court sittings,” Feika said.

He revealed that since April there has been no High Court sitting for inmates in the Kabala and Port Loko correctional centers.

He concluded that the organization has supported 37 correctional centers across the country with Ebola preventive materials, as well as 17 correctional facilities, 11 police stations in the Western Area and in the provinces, including Port Loko, Makeni, Bo, Kenema, Lunsar, Kambia and Kono.

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