By Baba Sillah
After wrapping up his marathon evidence before the Truth, Reconciliation and Reparations Commission, Baboucarr Jatta, a Prison Commissioner and the commander of Janjangbureh prison has recommended that the State Central Prison, Mile 2 be scrapped as it is inhabitable for human beings.
Commissioner Jatta, who is the eighth witness to testify before the commission, gave evidence on a wide range of issues from the 1996 Kartong attack, his duty as a medical officer and the general conditions of the prisons.
In his testimony, Jatta recommended the construction of a new prison to avoid overcrowding and diseases, which has seriously affected most of the prisoners.
He submitted that the prison conditions remained poor under the regimes of former Presidents Jawara and Jammeh, noting that the food is so terrible that many prisoners end up developing diarrhea while homosexuality becomes rampant among the inmates.
“We must take action now to change the prison especially the Main Wing because the people who are detained there are also human beings. We should also try and build satellite prisons and also improve the conditions of the prison officers because they are not motivated,” he recommended.
Earlier in his evidence, Commissioner Jatta testified that Mile 2 and other prisons became overcrowded after the 1994 coup as courts were handing down high sentences on various crimes, which he said, also contributed to the overcrowding of prisons.
On screening inmates before they get to their final destination, he recalled that the proper procedures faded away because of the coup, contending that the only information they received at the time was an executive order and they dare not to tell the military officers not to bring inmate at Mile 2.
Commissioner Jatta also told the commission that the detainees are denied access to medical care unless the doctors come to visit them in prisons, noting that the prison wardens were even threatened if they asked the detainees their medical conditions when they were brought to the prison.
However, he clarified that he would not know what happened to Sana Sabally and others when they were brought to prison since he was not on duty the night they were detained.
According to Commissioner Jatta, it was Sana Sabally who ordered for the arrest of his colleague, Jobarteh when he came to inspect the prison, adding that no one had the gut to stop Sana since he was the vice chairman of the council.
He explained: “While in detention, Sadibou Haidara told me he had blood pressure while Sana was suffering from minor headache. So I noted their condition and the drugs they normally take then I reported the matter to my superiors for action. Alieu Bah also a detainee intimated to me during our conversation that he escaped from execution ground at Fajara barracks before he was detained with his other colleagues. For Captain Basirou Barrow, he was suffering from serious bodily pain with broken tooth and had to be supported in order to walk.”
Commissioner Jatta finally testified that the Kartong and Farafenni attackers were also detained at Mile 2 with serious injuries and bruises on their bodies which, according to him happened to them during their arrest and Yaya Drammeh, who was part of Farafenni attack was seriously sick before he died.
Sittings continue today.