The facilities are funded by the UNDP in partnership with Insight Training Centre. This development came as part of the Ministry’s continual engagements with donor partners for support towards the realisation of the wider prisons reform programme; in particular, the reformation of the Gambia Prison Services in accordance with the UN’s Standard Minimum Rules for the Treatment of Prisoners (Mandela Rules).
In his welcome remarks during the occasion, the Director General of The Gambia Prison Services, Mr. Ansumana Manneh, affirmed that the initiative was in accordance with the Gambia Prison Services’ efforts to collaborate with stakeholders to address challenges associated with the reform programmes that were identified through various assessments by UNDP, UNODC, SSR, and TRRC.
“The availability of these projects; especially the Legal Aid Desk, will address and expedite most of the court cases, as it is the main cause of overcrowding in the remand wings by facilitating access for inmates to their legal representatives in the quickest possible time,” he stated.
Manneh added: “The presence of a skill training centre will also address or mitigate the rate of recidivism as it will provide livelihood skills for the inmates; thereby give them the opportunity in the job market when they are finally reintegrated back to the society”.
He said the renovated female wing will improve the living conditions of female inmates, and ensure compliance with the internationally recommended standard.
DG Manneh further announced that his department has received support from the UNDP in partnership with The Gambia Chamber of Commerce and Industry (GCCI) among other things to complete two dormitories at Old Jeshwang Prison with two hundred bunk beds and mattresses; provide a 30-seater bus to ease the movement of staff; refurbish the sanitary facilities at Mile II staff quarters, including the restoration of facilities at staff kitchens; upgrade and expand the medical facility at Mile II and also train staff on Case Management System; and provide PPEs to combat COVID -19.
The Director General expressed gratitude and appreciation to the UNDP alongside Insight Training Centre, the Ministry of Interior and the Prison Technical Team for their invaluable support and commitment to ensuring that the project is completed.
Speaking at the inaugural ceremony in Janjangbureh, the Honourable Minister of Interior, Mr. Seyaka Sonko said our nation will truly achieve its development aspirations only when we optimise and realise the full potential of the citizens. This, he said can only be realised when we train and equip them with the requisite knowledge and skills for employment and self-employment.
He said it is the desire of The Gambia government to train and provide each and every citizen, irrespective of where they are or their peculiar circumstances, with skills that will enable them contribute meaningfully to the development of the country.
“Therefore, the establishment of vocational skills training centre at Janjangbureh Prison is a step in the right direction. The training programme would enable inmates acquire skills for reintegration into their communities post-release and to make meaningful contributions to the society, thereby reducing the risk of re-offending. It would also contribute to the achievement of Agenda 2030 and SDGs of ‘leaving no one behind’, and ensuring equality and non- discrimination in terms of access to education, knowledge and skills’’, he outlined.
The Interior Minister further pointed out that it is common knowledge that The Gambia Prison Service, like most other institutions, needs institutional reform to always ensure efficient service delivery and the protection of the human rights of inmates. “The legal Aid Desk within the prison will no doubt increase access to legal service and justice for inmates. The renovation of the female wing of the prison will protect the privacy of female inmates and ensure that they live a life of dignity. Therefore, the provision of Legal Aid Desk and the renovation of the female wing is a crucial step for the Prisons Reform and Gambia’s transition to consolidating democratic governance, respect for the rule of law and human rights’’, he affirmed.
He reiterated the government’s commitment to collaborating with UNDP in the implementation of its Country Programme in The Gambia and by extension the entire UN System and other development partners. In the same vein, he called on other development partners to support Government’s reform programmes to consolidate democratic gains and to strengthen the rule of law in our country.
The Country Representative of the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) The Gambia, Ms. Aissata De thanked the Honourable Minister of Interior and Director General for the strong partnership with UNDP in reforming The Gambia Prison Service.
She explained that UNDP’s rule of law programme provides legal empowerment to marginalised groups, improves access to justice, and helps communities to deal with legacies of conflict. “Prisons are a fundamental component part of the criminal justice system and an integral part of the rule of law sector. UNDP has supported the development of critical assessments and strategies for The Gambia Prison Services, to ensure that the Prison and its needs are not forgotten during this historic reform period for The Gambia”.
The projects at the Janjanbureh Prisons, the UNDP Country Representative said, aim to promote the deterrence and rehabilitation role of The Gambia Prison Service. “Prison must feel safe and secure for inmates, personnel and visitors, particularly women and children and other vulnerable groups’’, she said.
The Chief Executive Officer of Insight Training Centre, Mr. Ismaila Ceesay said the mission of his institution is to train youths and empower them so that they contribute to the meaningful development of the country. Mr. Ceesay explained that about ten years ago his institution wrote to the Ministry of Interior in order to contribute to the socio-economic development of the inmates since youths are not only those that are outside but we have youths in the prisons as well. ‘’luckily the Ministry of Interior, responded with a goodwill and we were approved to provide skill training at the Mile II Prisons. Through partnerships with other institutions, we were able to build a skills centre at the Mile II Prisons. Through partnership, we have trained 235 inmates from the Mile II prisons, provide 27 inmates each with 3000 to take home to their families, we were able to raise more than 40,000 dalasis as an emergency fund for inmates’’, he divulged
Mr. Ceesay said with the newly inaugurated facilities, they aim to train 15 inmates in electrical and solar installation and tailoring. He informed that out of the inmates that were trained by his institution so far, none of them have committed offence to warrant them get back to prison.
The ceremony was concluded with the presentation of certificates of appreciation by the Honourable Minister to the partners of the prison reform process and the supervision of the newly built facilities at the Janjangbureh prison complex.
By: Fatoumata Joof
Ministry of Interior