Described by the Officer in Charge (OIC) as a genius, Abdul Sesay* has been in remand for eleven months, accused of larceny.
The boy, who is suspected to have stolen from his school office, is also Sefadu Correctional Centre’s resident artist.
Committed to the high court in February of this year, the case is yet to be heard and Sesay waits patiently, painting prison by-laws on the walls and crafting colourful trinkets using plastic bottles and used containers.
“This is an urgent case,” says Justice Browne-Marke, who arrived from Freetown to address 73 cases without indictments and 33 trial cases.
This marks the third prison court sitting in Kono following the conclusion of the 2018 Presidential, Parliamentary and Local Council Elections in Sierra Leone.
With a significant increase in the number of backlogged cases since 2017, there are clear structural issues within the criminal justice system in Kono. “I have come to see for myself what is going on,” says Justice Browne-Marke.
There is a lack of follow up. “This boy should not be in prison, he should be in his community, in school, where someone can keep an eye on him.”
Following UNDP's visit to the Kono Prison Court, Annette Nalwoga, Democratic Governance Team Leader emphasised effective and efficient case management as a prerequisite in ensuring due protection of the individual in criminal justice cases.
"This is at the heart of UNDP’s Rule of Law programme, to support the justice chain and individual institutions in strengthening these processes and procedures. With the human and financial resources (made) available in Sierra Leone, this is not an easy task for the justice chain actors."
UNDP’s From Prisons to Corrections Project works closely with the Bail and Sentencing Project, and welcomes a combined effort, to instigate the review of cases, to fast track indictments, bails and acquittals, and to provide Sesay and others alike with adequate access to justice and reduce overcrowding in the country’s correctional services.
In addition to the recent revival of case review and prison courts, UNDP supports the ongoing rehabilitation of Makeni, Mafanta, and Sefadu Correctional Services.
Earnest Henry, Civil Engineer at Makeni Correctional Centre describes conditions before rehabilitation began:
“There was no water connection, and the toilet conditions were not good.”
“There was one inspection chamber and one septic tank, now we have 7 inspection chambers, and a soak pit.”
“Inmates have constructed a water tower that carries 10,000 litres of water.”
“They provide labour, and they will be paid for their work.”
Further east, on 575 acres of land and with 164 inmates, Mafanta hosts the largest correctional facility in Sierra Leone.
Refurbishing cellblocks and painting walls, cells that were once inhabitable, now welcome tailoring and carpentry workshops.
Moses B. Conteh, Officer in Charge, at Mafanta Correctional Centre, explains:
“Inmates could not live here. We feared the ceiling would drop. Beams and pillars were incorporated, and cracks were closed. They were leaking, and UNDP decided to assist. Ventilation has improved, as doors and windows have been installed in cells and toilets.”
“Allowing for decongestion in services in Freetown, Mafanta is the perfect for inmates to learn about agriculture, with cassava farms, piggeries, rice farms, cattle and goats,” surrounding the vast grounds.
Unlike other correctional services, Mafanta detains convicted inmates.
Lamin Kamara*, will soon be released.
“August, I am going back to my people in Kabala,” says Kamara, who was 25 when he arrived in Mafanta.
Now, 28, he has completed his sentence. "I’m planning to do better with my life. I am an operator and a construction man."
Inmates receive stipends for their work.
“With 30 inmates enrolled in the centre’s earning scheme, the work we see, they did that," says Conteh.
“They have an idea before they were posted in their areas. Those that know painting, went there, and those that know welding, went there.”
Working towards the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, and with thanks to funds from the US Department of State and the Bureau of International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs, UNDP promotes peaceful and inclusive societies, provides access to justice for all and builds effective, accountable and inclusive institutions throughout Sierra Leone.
* Names have been changed to protect the person’s identities.
The full photo story here.