By Omar Bah
HMD Charity Foundation, a non-profit international organisation establised by young Gambians to support needy families and people neglected by the society, yesterday paid D73, 000 to cover the court fines of six inmates at the Mile 2. All six are aged between 18 and 29, who were sentenced for offences ranging from felony to stealing.
A female prisoner serving four years for assault has had her fine paid for two years from the money but she still has to serve her remaining two years. Those released were given D600 each for transport back to their respective homes. The foundation also donated 50 bags of rice and sugar to the prison’s feeding programme.
The HMD Charity Foundation CEO, Saikou Balajo said the decision to pay for prisoners’ fines is to give them a second chance in life and complement government’s efforts.
“We will continue to work with them on our empowerment programmes to see how best they could become productive citizens in the society. This, we hope, may also serve as motivation for other inmates knowing that their good behavior could give them such opportunities,” Balajo said.
He said the released young prisons will undergo a rigorous rehabilitation and counseling programme to ensure they turn a new page in life.
“Our mission is to see a united world where people will work together and support one another in times of need. Our strength is the over one hundred selfless volunteers we have across the country ready to serve their communities for free,” he said. Balajo said the NGO also has projects designed to support orphans, sex workers and street beggars.
The deputy director 1 of prisons, Modou Jarju expressed gratitude to the NGO and assured them that the contribution will go a long way in complementing the government’s efforts especially when it comes to the issues of feeding.
He said the prisons service has undergone serious transformation since the coming into office of the Barrow administration. “We have now transformed from a punitive prison to rehabilitation prison. We are doing a lot when it comes to rehabilitating our prisoners because we know not all prisoners are criminals; some of them are here by accident or miscarriage of justice,” Jarju said. The prisons department’s spokesperson, Modou Lamin Ceesay, appealed to the released inmates to turn a new page when they return to their various communities.
“I urge you to go back there and engage in something beneficial to yourself and your communities. If any of you fails to do that and commits an offence and you return here, if such opportunities come knocking, we will not consider you. Many were called but only a few of you are chosen and don’t betray the trust,” he said.
The released prisoners assured the NGO that they will be productive citizens if they return to their communities.
“We appreciate the NGO and we pray that God protects us from committing crimes again,” one of them said emotionally.
The director of NGO affairs, Musu Sonko said HMD despite being registered one year back with the NGO Affairs has contributed immensely in changing many lives. She said NGOs are basically formed to complement the government in national development.