#Editorial

Gambia on the path to Prisons reforms!

Mar 31, 2021, 10:53 AM

Overcrowding of Gambians prisons is a long-standing problem that was addressed in the past. The country’s Prisons system has suffered from years of neglect and under-development under Jammeh’s rule.

And conditions of detentions are poor and the Remand Wing of Mile 2 (state central prisons) is seriously over-crowded and in a dilapidated state.

The situation changed a little better when the current coalition government took over in 2017. But a lot more needs to be done to better the living conditions of inmates.

Around the globe, prisons are correctional facilities that transform and reform inmates for positive re-integration into the society. And that is how prisons supposed to be anywhere in world. 

On the contrary, prisons in Africa especially in The Gambia are death traps designed to get rid of opponents or people critical to sitting government.

The minister of Interior Yankuba Sonko recently launched the Rapid Prisons Assessment Report, Photobook and Video Documentary. This will pave the way for new reforms at these facilities. The event was organised by the Ministry of Interior in partnership with The Gambia and United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) Country Office.

The move could not have come at a better time, when the country’s prisons are seriously and urgently in need of reform to ameliorate the conditions of our inmates and services.

Challenges at the Gambia’s prisons start from environment, dilapidated infrastructure, lack of equipment, ICT to mobility. These areas need urgent redress.

It should be noted that cramped conditions in prison militate against the prisoner’s right to good health and dignity. Furthermore, an excessive prison population creates problems of hygiene, sanitation, management and discipline.

Our prisoners should be accorded with opportunities that will enable them land themselves gainful skills after serving their prisons terms.

Also, juvenile inmates need very different care and attention than adult inmates. They should be accorded with right opportunities to change for the better and not for them to fall into harden career criminals.

What is interesting about the conditions of Gambian prisons is that most of the facilities were constructed during the colonial era dating back to 1920s.

If it was not for Covid-19, urgent measures would not have been taken especially in improving conditions of the Remand Wing, which many fear has the potential to become an epicenter for the spread of the global pandemic.

We therefore commend the UNDP and all those who played a part in coming up with this project titled;- Strengthening Rule of Law and Enhancing Justice and Security Delivery in The Gambia.

We can do a lot to improve the conditions of our prisons. Together we can build a better Gambia.

"I want to be figure for prison reform. I think that the criminal justice system is rotten."

Henry Louis Gates

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