By Abu Bakarr Sulaiman Tarawally
A grotesque picture of someone with scabies all over his skin made the rounds in the media in September 2018. It painted a mental picture of harsh living conditions by inmates in the Southern region’s Bo Male Correctional Centre.
Scores of human rights activists were perturbed by the news.
Now no less a harsh comment came from the Member of Parliament representing the area. Honourable Gevao said: “The food served to the inmates was such that I could not serve my pet at home.”
The correctional centre was constrained of proper lavatory facility. Five out of the ten latrines were in working order serving over two hundred inmates.
These ugly trends of affairs led to a change in command as the regional commander South and team were transferred. Superintendent Mohamed Opito Jimmy, the services’ former media relations officer is now the officer commanding.
He says things have changed.
“When I took over, in August, 2018, the number of trial inmates was 147. We currently above 200 inmates, which means we are over-populated here, Jimmy stated; adding that they were able to secured conviction in court for 40 inmates recently that are currently serving their jail terms.
Adding to the figures was an additional 47 from the Pademba Road Maximum Correctional Centre in Freetown,” Jimmy said.
“The skinny inmate with scabies has recovered from his skin disease,” he reported, adding that the correctional centre has been fumigated to prevent further outbreaks. The centre now has an improved lodging facility, he stated, and works are underway to mount the 10,000 litre -water tank, while additional latrines and a cesspit are being constructed to ensure a safe bin of health.
Jimmy said the cook and the medical in charge were replaced to improve on quality services at the correctional centre.
Water and sanitation, he said, remain a key challenge. Inmates before now would trek some distance to fetch water which is inadequate according to Jimmy given the number of inmates that are utilising the facility.
This centre was established in 1946, primarily to host the Native Administration in the Southern city then with a capacity of eighty (80) personnel.
A lot of transformation has taken place here. The inmates have different talents, which they showcased a day before the African Human Rights Charter Day, October 21st. Abdul Kaillie Fefewoma sang an inspiring song of advice to his fellow inmates. Painters designed different portraits -crafted imaginary details about life and some lessons learnt. Some paintings are derived from biblical texts and others from fictions. Some showcased their talents in dancing, others played a soccer match.
The Bo Male Correctional Centre has an adult literacy program with a library facility. Quite a number of inmates do attend to the religious and faith services. The fateful Sunday was massive and led by the correctional centre’s head chaplain.
Muslim inmates also do practice their religion.
Jimmy said Muslim clergies do visit the centre on Fridays and Saturdays to preach and conduct psycho-social counselling. The inmates themselves told me that they are learning very many things in the centre.
They made drinking mugs, water bottles, table mats, raffia bags, wall and floor ornaments etc on their own -utilizing plastics, raffia shrubs and jerry cans. Others are engaged in carpentry and construction works.
Jimmy says the centre has begun to implement the earning scheme, which puts direct cash in the coffers of inmates but in bank accounts at the Rokel Commercial Bank issue to the earner after completing their jail terms.
He said the earning scheme is one way to empower inmates to many who do not have career before conflicting with the law.