By Adama Tine
Inmates at the Gambia’s State Central Prison have raised concerns over their poor feeding and accommodation conditions in a documentary video released at the Kairaba Beach Hotel on Tuesday.
The inmates’ concerns were highlighted during the launching of the Rapid Prisons Assessment Report, Photo Book and Video Documentary organized by the Ministry of Interior in partnership with the Gambia Prisons Services and the United Nations Development Programmes (UNDP).
According to sources, the Prisons Services of the Gambia has been in existence since the colonial period. In a country of less than two million population (2013 census), the country’s three prisons hold about 600 detainees. With the coming into power of the new government, the prison service aspires to meet the Mandela Rules and transform from an institution centered on punishment to one focused on rehabilitation.
In the documentary, an inmate disclosed that for 22 years, Mile 2 Central Prisons has been an epicenter of the cruelty of the regime of former President Yahya Jammeh and made it the darkest period of the Gambia’s history for which he called on the current government to address and improve the image of the prison service.
He added that with the new administration, things are getting better but that there was still room for improvement as there is still some tension between the inmates and warders, adding however that the relationship is much more cordial than before.
According to him, the toilet facilities are still horrible and some inmates throw away the food served to them especially the dinner as it is still quite bad.
In his intervention, the Director General of the Gambia Prisons Service Ansumana Manneh, said the capacity of the prisons, especially Mile 2 were meant to accommodate not than 300 inmates but with the increased number of crimes, the prisons are accommodating far more than the required number.
Manneh said previously the feeding aspect of the prisons was very poor but now he said there has been great improvement thereby reflecting on the health of the inmates. Also. He said the privileges that were not given to the inmates before were now being given to them and those on death row who were not allowed any visitors were now being allowed visitors on a monthly basis.
“With support from the government and other development partners like the UNDP, UNODC and GCCI, we are able to make some expansions especially at the kitchen, clinic and the Jeshwang prison. However, there are still challenges especially with regards to infrastructure,” Manneh noted.
The Commissioner at Janjangbureh prison, Babucar Jatta said the Gambia is embracing a new democracy with respect for people and human rights. Since the inception of the new government, he said the human rights situation of the inmates has improved.
“It is important to observe the Mandela Rules in order to bring positive change in the prison management and techniques in the prisons because we need to observe their human rights not to be violated anymore compared to the previous government,” he concluded.