By Olimatou Coker
In a rare encounter with the public, inmates at the State Central Prisons Mile 2 have used a visit by Peace Network and partners to highlight their conditions and delay in their cases.
The NGO Peace Network in partnership with the National Youth Parliament had visited and held discussion with the inmates as part of commemorations marking International Youth Day.
This year, the organisations celebrating the event decided to meet and discuss with inmates in their efforts to facilitate reintegration of youths from prison into the society.
At the meeting at Mile 2, the audience enjoyed a power point presentation of the importance of international youth day followed by interactions with inmates.
Briefing the delegation on their situation, speaker after speaker among the inmates, lamented the long delay their cases suffer and appealed to the government and the society to give them a second chance. “Where there has been a wrong, we want to say we have learned our lesson and regretted our actions. However, we are convinced that there are cases which require better investigations because we believed some among us have been wrongly accused and even sentenced without the whole truth being established,” one of them said.
Many also said they are being detained without trial because their files went missing or lost.
The inmates said the conditions of the prisons are deplorable and also urged government to take responsibility and pay regular visits for first hand information.
They lamented also that not much has been done about the promised prison reform or the rehabilitation of inmates. “It’s like the government has forgotten us here because they promised us a lot of things in terms of improvements to the conditions but all that is forgotten. That’s why we appreciate the coming of NYP and partners because it gave us a feeling that we are not left out by everybody and the dialogue held here has reoriented us,” another inmate said.
The inmates said sessions such as the visit of the Peace Network and partners are relevant as they provide a very rare link between them and the outside.
“We do not believe all of us here are bad people or criminals. Some are here by genuine mistake, either by self or error of judgment of another human being. The contradiction is that some people enjoying their freedom are doing things far more detrimental to society than some of us here”, one inmate said.
The inmates thanked the staff and officials of Gambia Prisons for their support in facilitating the meeting and extended profound appreciation to Peace Network, NYP and Bob Keita Foundation for their commendable gesture.
The Peace Network executive director, Musa K Ceesay and Aji Jatou Sanneh, program assistant, made a presentation focusing on the role of youth in the maintenance of peace and security for national development.