SIERRA LEONE: Don Bosco Fambul provides critical support and intervention services for inmates at Pademba Road Prison
(MissionNewswire) Salesian missionaries with Don Bosco Fambul, located in Sierra Leone’s capital city of Freetown and one of the country’s leading child-welfare organizations, have been actively providing services to young prisoners incarcerated at the Pademba Road Prison. A long-term partnership between the prison and Don Bosco Fambul was established to allow missionaries to provide legal services, meet basic needs, and develop a youth counseling center to give youth and their families the necessary tools for rehabilitation and reintegration upon release.
Prisons in Sierra Leone face overcrowding as well as lack vital sanitation and health care. Inmates often die from overcrowding, illness and violence. All too often, minors are detained for petty crimes and end up falling prey to prison violence, giving them little hope for the future upon their release. Pademba Road Prison, the country’s largest detention facility, was designed for 324 detainees but actually has more than 1,300 inmates. This is still the case in 2018. Overcrowding and a lack of clean water and proper hygiene, in addition to a lack of medical care, contribute to the persistent spread of disease and illness among the inmates which has led to deaths.
Food is scarce in the prison with the only substantial meal of the day consisting of cassava leaves and rice. Water distribution is inconsistent and incarcerated men and boys sometimes do not receive the daily allocation of one-third of a liter of water. Younger, smaller members of the prison’s population suffer the most. Those with money are able to buy additional food and water but most inmates at Pademba are poor or do not receive visits from people who could give them food or money.
Salesian missionaries provide food and water for young inmates while also offering counseling services, medical assistance and therapy to ensure inmates are mentally fit when their prison terms end. Through their prison program, missionaries reach 250 inmates.
“Youth incarcerated in Sierra Leone must find hope for the future if we expect to deter them from crime and other dangerous behavior,” says Father Mark Hyde, director of Salesian Missions, the U.S. development arm of the Salesians of Don Bosco. “Our goal is for youth to use their time in prison constructively and through counseling, begin to address what brought them to the prison in order to prevent their return.”
Salesian missionaries also provide legal services to youth who have committed minor offenses or have been unlawfully imprisoned in Pademba. The goal is to seek their immediate release and/or a referral to a remand home or to an approved school.
In collaboration with Catholic Caritas and Sierra Leone Prisons Service, Salesian missionaries launched the Legal Support Project in 2014 to provide the most disadvantaged inmates critical legal representation to ensure their rights are upheld. Many of the prisoners assisted through the project do not have family outside of the prison who will make sure that the court and prison system acts in a fair and balanced way. This project gives inmates fair representation as they work for their release.
One of the prison’s challenges is its disorganized and difficult to access records for the approximately 1,300 prisoners. Many of the incarcerated men and boys have similar first and last names and prison officers are often careless or negligent when creating or using the documents. The haphazard record keeping and administration result in many of those incarcerated waiting months or years before going to trial. Some have spent months and even years in the prison without having received a formal sentence.
Don Bosco Fambul’s intervention on behalf of 79 inmates who had never received a formal indictment, resulted in official indictments and release for those who had been in prison for longer than their sentence. Projects are bringing justice and hope to suffering inmates, providing opportunities for them to reintegrate into society and to become more engaged and successful citizens. In addition, Don Bosco Fambul has been instrumental in the release of more than 150 wrongfully accused inmates over the past two years and the payment of fines for the release of 35 young inmates in 2017.
After a prisoner’s release, Don Bosco Fambul continues its support by providing basic necessities and assisting with reintegration into the community. The organization has assisted 225 individuals with extra food, mental health treatment, hygiene kits and medical and dental attention, including surgical procedures.