Sierra Leone Human Rights

Researching Human Rights in Sierra Leone’s Prisons

RWI recently entered into a new partnership with the Sierra Leone Correctional Services (SLCS) and United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) to increase compliance with international human rights standards in the Sierra Leonean correctional system.

The first activity in the project has just been completed: a week in Freetown’s Pademba Road Prison during which a team of SLCS officers, with advisory support from RWI, conducted a comprehensive internal audit against the UN Standard Minimum Rules for the Treatment of Prisoners (Mandela Rules).

We spoke to Joseph Lamboi, Deputy Director General of Corrections and leader of the SLCS audit team, to learn more.

Tell us about this activity

Myself and senior colleagues have been working very closely with RWI to look at the human rights situation in the main Correctional Centre in Freetown. It has been a completely comprehensive assessment including Reception, Accommodation, Discipline, Administration, Health Care, Complaints, Restraints, Work, Visits, and Training – all areas of the Mandela Rules.

We spent four gruelling days gathering data and four long nights processing it, before presenting our findings to the Centre Managers and Director General. And we are quite confident that our objective report will set the pace for a new beginning. We are bold enough to accept the anomalies that were found, and even the officers of the prison were very receptive, ready to accept the findings and ready to make changes.

We found that many of these things can be achieved without cost, and we will be taking action even before the report is finalised. Some other areas do need resources, so we will be using the report to liaise with the government and donors for support.

What is next for you in this project?

Next we will repeat the exercise at some of the other institutions around the country in order to get a complete picture of our compliance with international standards. Using this information, we will also be working with RWI to review the Prisons Act and Rules for consistency with the Mandela Rules.

For this we hope to tap into expertise including our counterparts in Kenya: last year we had a visit from RWI and the Kenya Prisons Service which was very useful, and next month we are planning to visit them in return to look at their facilities and the reforms underway there. I am sure there is much we can learn from one another.

How do you see the future for corrections in Sierra Leone?

I’m very optimistic! Many of our officers are looking forward to a better Correctional Service in Sierra Leone. You can see just how dedicated they are from the last week, working 11-hour days to complete the research. Now I only hope that we can get the support from the government that we need to carry out the necessary reforms.