Saturday, August 04, 2007

Deplorable Conditions at Sierra Leone’s Central Maximum Prison

Conditions at the Pademba Road maximum central prison are becoming appalling as a total number of sixteen prisoners have lost their lives within the shortest possible time this year.

Apparently, the Pademba Road prison was specifically designed and established to accommodate three hundred prisoners. But due to some the high crime rate in the city of Freetown, the number has swollen to three folds and creating health problems in the cells.

Taking a retrospective view of the standard minimum rules for the treatment of prisoners which was adopted by the first United Nations Congress on the Prevention of Crime and the Treatment of Offenders held in Geneva in 1955 and approved by the Economic and Social Council by Resolutions 633C (XXIV) of July 31 1957 and 2076 (CXII) of 13 May 1977, one may come to conclude that the conditions at the Pademba Road prison are deplorable and unfit for human habitat.

In fact, the preliminary observations of the standard minimum rules for the treatment of prisoners states that “what is generally accepted as being good principle and practice in the treatment of prisoners and the management of institutions should be adopted in every countries prisons/institutions”.

Since F.S. Conteh become Director of Prisons, he has never went on leave for the past fifteen years. Prison officers are said not working in conducive atmosphere as regular supplies of uniform, boots and rain coats to carry out their duties effectively are lacking.

According to research, the under-mentioned findings were responsible as indicators for the appalling conditions at the Pademba prisons:


The prison is over-congested to an extent that more than three prisoners occupy one room in accommodation. This is contrary to the United Nations standard minimum rules for the treatment of prisoners which indicate that each prisoner shall occupy by night a cell or room by himself. And if for specific reasons, such as temporary overcrowding, it becomes necessary for the central prison administration to make an exception to this rule as it is not desirable to have two prisoners in a cell room.

It further states that where dormitories are used, they shall be occupied by prisoners carefully selected as being suitable to associate with one another in those conditions with regular supervision by night in keeping with the nature of the institution.

Prison officers interviewed by this writer said that they are very limited in number to carry out a regular supervision by night.

They further stated that there is no regular supply of electricity. This they said normally creates unrest and causing prisoners to escape. A senior prison officer who proffered anonymity confided to this reporter that the sleeping accommodation provided for prisoners is sub-standard and does not meet the international requirements of health as the climate conditions at Pademba road prison keeps changing to very cold weather as at current during the rains and very hot during the dry season.

Lack of cubic content of air, heating and ventilation prescribed by the UN standard minimum rules for the treatment of prisoners is another problem. Windows at the prisons are not large enough to allow ventilation of fresh air passing through. The situation is alleged to have prevented prisoners even to read or work by natural light because of the design in construction by the architects who built the prisons.

Sanitary conditions are also lacking. There were reports about shortage of water during the hot season unless prisoners fetch water in neighbouring areas accompanied by the prison officers. Unlike this situation, bathing and shower installations are said to be adequate during the rainy season but are locked in the dry season.


This is one of the major causes of death at the Pademba road maximum prison according to reports from sources. While it is expected that prisoners shall keep their persons clean and shall be provided with clean water, toilet articles which are necessary for health and cleanliness, the health hygiene in the prisons amongst the prisoners is said not good. This has responsible why most prisoners are unable to maintain good appearance compatible with their self respect and human dignity. Thus facilities are needed to be provided to properly take care of their hair and beards. The loose nature of their beards and hairs has made them shabby.

Clothing and bedding

The UN standard minimum rules for the treatment of prisoners indicates that every prisoner who is not allowed to wear his own clothing shall be provided with an outfit of clothing suitable for the climate and adequate to keep him in good health. And such clothing shall in no manner be degrading or humiliating.

It further states that all clothing shall be clean and kept in proper condition. And that under clothing shall be changed and washed as often as necessary for the maintenance of hygiene.

It also states that every prisoner shall in accordance with local or national standards, be provided with a separate bed, and with separate and sufficient bedding which shall be clean when issued, kept in good order and changed often enough to ensure its cleanliness. Unfortunately and contrary to these rules, the clothing and bedding conditions of prisoners at the Pademba Road is sub-standard as members are provided with half naked that exposes them to the hazardous conditions of the cold weather.


However, the food prepared at the Pademba road prison is not palatable to the prisoners.

Medical services

Medical services too despite efforts by the government to maintain inmates’ health conditions, yet are not adequate according to reports. For the whole prisons, there is only one medical doctor. This is deploring.