New project to promote reforms in Sierra Leone’s detention facilities launched

Nov 4, 2016

With this new project, inmates have a second chance at better lives after serving time. © John Terry/ UNDP Sierra Leone

Freetown, November 4, 2016:  Sierra Leone Vice-President Honourable Dr. Victor Bockarie-Foh has launched, a new USD 1.5 Million initiative aiming to revamp and transform the country’s prisons facilities to correctional services, in Freetown on November 3, 2016.

The Bureau of International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs (INL) and US Department of State funded the project titled “From Prisons to Corrections: Promoting Institutional Reforms in Sierra Leone Correctional Services (SLCS)”, seeks to address intractable and perennial challenges in detention facilities across Sierra Leone.

The Honourable Victor Foh praised UNDP for its support to the SLCS and described the inauguration as transformational.  “The transformation of what was then known as the Sierra Leone Prisons to the Sierra Leone Correctional Services would ensure the respect of the rights of every Sierra Leonean irrespective of where one finds himself or herself,” he assured.

“Institutional reform goes beyond a mere change of nomenclature.  In this case, it has to do with Correctional facilities which undoubtedly should correspond to additional human resources; management capabilities and legal reforms; improved welfare, safety and security of correctional officers, inmates and the society,” Vice-President said.  

The United States Ambassador to Sierra Leone Mr. John Hoover is confident that the project would usher in positive change to Sierra Leone’s justice system within the next two years and beyond.  

Ambassador Hoover noted that the correctional reform project would help the SLCS implement its new strategic plan to protect the welfare of inmates in correctional facilities and institutionalize improvements in management and operations.

“By helping to modernize the management of the SLCS, it will reduce prison congestions and improve the health and welfare of inmates, it will also focus on the re-integration of offenders into society helping them to become productive in their communities,” the U.S Ambassador said.

The Acting UN Resident Coordinator, Mr. Geoff Wiffin said that the UN committee against Torture in its review of Sierra Leone, recommended to the government to improve living conditions and treatment of detainees and addressing over-crowding challenges in its facilities.

Mr. Wiffin noted that “The enactment of the 2014 Correctional Service Act that aims to facilitate the transformation from prison to corrections, which allows flexibility, adaptability and innovation through the establishment of Correctional Services Council chaired by President Koroma.”  

In his statement, the Representative of the Chief Justice of Sierra Leone Honourable Justice Mr. Browne-Marke, J.S.C drew inference from the Bail and Sentencing Project jointly implemented by the Judiciary and UNDP with support of the US Department of State/INL. Mr. Justice Browne-Marke said that the project is also aimed at ensuring the decongestion of correctional facilities through the introduction of innovative ways in addressing overcrowding, suspended sentences, community punishment by the enactment of the revised Criminal Procedure Act that has been presented to the Cabinet.

“Incarceration of persons who have committed minor offences is not correct”, the Honourable Supreme Court Judge opined.  

Personalities at the launching ceremony included the UNDP Acting Country Director, the Deputy Minister of Internal Affairs, the Director of Gender Affairs from the Sierra Leone Police, the Director General and Correctional Service officers drawn from the 12 districts in Sierra Leone,  the media, researchers, academics and civil society.

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