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A JAIL BY ANY OTHER NAME IS STILL A JAIL!

By: Winstanley.R.Bankole. Johnson

From time immemorial, homosexuality within the Prisons walls is one of the most guarded secrets. In the United States, TV documentaries like “JAIL!” or “LOCK UP!” shy away from openly showing footages on it, even though one could easily discern from the demeanour of some male inmates and the connotative injunctions from Prison Officers against inmates altering their tunic sizes to expose their body contours in a manner that will entice others of same sex orientations.

Pandemics

But as with all other sordid and despicable acts, once the lid on them is blown off, it behoves any responsible government to proactively apply stringent control measures within those facilities that will nip them in the bud,  either to avoid institutionalized stigmatization or to prevent the possibility such practices from taking hold on the wider community upon the eventual releases of prisoners, having regard for the inadvertent spreading of the attendant communicable diseases inherent in them (HIV/AIDS; Ebola, Syphilis, Scabies, Gonorrhea). We all know that as with the advent of Cholera, and until recently Ebola, the devastating impacts of such pandemics on our perennially overstretched medical resources can best be imagined than described.

Homosexuality

A few weeks back, the “AYV” Newspaper hinted on mass homosexuality within our prisons system. Yet again in its Vol.4 No.013 edition of 11th February, the “Politico” Newspaper also reported on the same vice, embellishing it with a photographic evidence of a male detainee recently released from, and abandoned right outside the Kenema prison gates and who, with a much distended abdomen looked physically pregnant. By his own confessions, the young man in the latter instance allegedly attributed his present physical abnormality to a sustained period of involuntary anal sexual abuse throughout his very short detention period of just under eighteen months at the Kenema Prisons.

In both cases of evidential abuses however, the prison authorities vehemently refuted all allegations of homosexuality under their watches, and instead attributed the released prisoners’ sordid appearances to other medical complications. In the case of the Presidential New Year’s day “Pardonees”, the Prison’s PRO a Mr. Opito Jimmy advanced that all of them arrived at the detention centers with a complication or two at the time of their convictions.

Cryptic Lies

The fact remains however that very unfortunately for him, his failure to advance cogent and satisfactory explanations have helped even the most ill-informed of citizens to be able to decode their cryptic lies, because it is now common knowledge now that apart from rumours of homosexual servitude or slavery induced by starvation within our prison systems – sometimes allegedly influenced by “orders from above” that might just want to “teach their enemies a lesson or two” – there are many other forms of unimaginable and abominable acts going on within the confines of those walls that should be best left unsaid.

Caricatures of Humanity

It has to be said however that a good number amongst those recently on released on Presidential Clemency and shown on the SLBCTV were such pitiable caricatures of humanity, that even the Cameramen chose to only show their torsos downwards, instead of their faces. That was because all of them reflected one sordid physical abnormality or the other-: scabies, craw-craw, louse-infested “karangba”, malnourishment, distended stomachs; beriberi (lassie) – or all in one in some cases.  And all of this against a backdrop of the massive annual budgetary allocations by the government into the coffers of the Director-General of Prisons through both Mr. Joseph B Dauda and Mr. Sheka Tarawallie (Minister and Deputy Minister respectively) of the Ministry of Internal Affairs, but dissipated by a host of ghost suppliers and rogue suppliers facilitated by equally rogue officers.

Commonsensical

I am neither a legal or medical expert, but from the despicable physical appearances of those released prisoners, a few commonsensical questions that come to mind are:

  • If indeed they arrived at the detention facilities in such pitiable and critically ill conditions, why were they not allowed regular and proper medical attention throughout their incarcerations – which is their fundamental constitutional right?
  • If it is not true that those released male detainees with distended stomachs have been sexually abused within the prison, why were they not sent to the Rainbow Center and the results of their examinations made public?
  • Are those in our detention facilities not also included among the “…..all manner of citizens of persons…..” that are equally entitled to the favours, safety and security of our Head of State and Fountain of Honour as enshrined in our National Constitution?
  • Could it be that an institutionalized web of conspiracy exist within the establishment to be recommending only those close to death for Presidential Clemency, so as to avoid making the disposal of their corpses the ultimate responsibility of the state?
  • Could there also exist a massive web of conspiracy between the various Civil Society groups claiming to be championing the welfare of Prison inmates and the Prison Officers to their mutual financial advantages? If not then how come with all such sordid facts available, not one of them has raised a voice in protest?

Quite recently and after intense pressure from the Civil Society group called Center for Accountability and the Rule of Law (CARL) headed by Mr. Ibrahim Tommy, government through an Act of Parliament finally acceded to a change of the name of our gaols from “Prisons” to “Correctional Centers” – (“Corehshonah Shentah” – a’ la Prison PRO Opito Jimmy).  To many of us however, that change will forever remain cosmetic because a rose by any other name remains a rose. Equally so a “Bambakayaka” or Jail or “Gaol” by another other name will always remain so, unless and until of course visible improvements are seen in the dietary, sanitary and medical conditions at all prisons country wide, and plus the transformational capacities of the inmates throughout their incarceration and upon their releases from those detention facilities.

Did I hear everyone say those are practically unachievable feats under their present ministerial supervisory set up? Hmmmmmm!!!!

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