Ibrahim Bendu: Sierra Leone Telegraph: 17 June 2020:
Reporters from over ten of Sierra Leone’s leading registered newspapers have confirmed that even as corona virus is spreading inside the Freetown prisons among prisoners, the authorities in Sierra Leone have left the prisoners without adequate water supply for the past ten days.
What is even more shocking, according to their findings is that prisoners are now forced to urinate and defecate inside cell toilets that are already full of un-flushed urine and faeces, then forced to sleep in those cells without fresh air.
Furthermore, investigations show that prisoners have been unable to take daily baths, let alone follow coronavirus precautions of regular washing of hands.
Prisoners cannot wash their hands, nor is there enough water for the prison wardens to wash theirs.
According to the report, the situation is a potential timebomb for a massive spread of coronavirus inside those prisons.
The investigations confirmed that at least 30 prisoners have been infected with coronavirus, caught behind bars at the Pademba Road prisons in Freetown.
All 30 infected prisoners became sick after the authorities remanded an alleged thief at the prison without bail.
The male prisoner who has been identified as corona case 90, went on to infect prisoners with whom he came into contact inside the prisons as he was himself already infected before his arrest. The jail yard now has infected prisoners passing the virus to one another.
Few weeks ago, a total of nineteen prisoners had the virus and then just last week, a further eleven prisoners also tested positive for the virus, bringing the total number of coronavirus prisoners to 30. Some are said to have recovered but many prisoners are now admitted at a temporary Isolation Treatment Centre built inside the prisons.
It is in the midst of such an unprecedented virus outbreak behind prison bars that Government has left Pademba Road prison without adequate water supply.
Even during the Ebola virus crisis, the Government back then ensured adequate water supply and also took steps to ensure not a single prisoner got infected with the virus.
Many citizens with loved ones inside the prisons, especially the innocent persons denied bail, are concerned at the lack of water for bathing, washing hands and flushing toilets inside cells.
“In this day and age, prisoners being made to sleep in cells with unflushed urine and faeces for several days is an outrage!!” said Mr. Michael Ibrahim Kallon who lamented that his elder sister is now denied bail and in the Prisons.
When a journalist contacted the prisons, the Regional Commander for the Pademba Road Prisons, Mr. Turay initially said that he was in a meeting. He requested to be called after one hour for comment. After an hour, he was called but he did not respond to the call. All efforts have been made to reach him but all remained futile
However, the Public Relations Officer for the prisons, Mr. Cole-Showers later spoke to the investigative Journalists on the issues. He said the prison’s water bowser is faulty. It is very old and as a result spends most of its time at the garage.
Cole-Showers also stated that in August 2019 they reconnected pipe borne water into their correction facilities in Freetown. They have been cut off from the Guma Valley direct water supply. They spent close to two Hundred Million Leones (Le 200,000,000.00) to get that done.
The Guma Valley Water Company supplied water for about two months and withdrew supply. When the Company was approached on the matter, Guma said prisons should pay more money before opening their pipes. Prisons did not have enough funds, so they could not oblige. They reverted to sending the water bowser to hydrants to fetch water for distribution to different prison facilities in Freetown.
Cole- showers said that there is a bore-hole in the Female correctional center which can be used for laundering, bathing and cooking. But the independent investigations show this is not at all true.
According to the investigations, since the bowser broke down, the situation of urine and faeces stench has worsened at the female prison.
Responding to the Covid-19 saga, the prisons public relations officer (PRO) revealed in his own words “Yes we have Covid-19 in the Male Correctional Center, former special court. In total, since we had that index case, we have had 30 cases. 18 have recovered so far. Presently, those in the treatment center are 12. The situation is under control, we have medical specialists from the EOC who are working tirelessly with our medical team to ensure that the situation does not get worse.”
It is in these appallingly dire conditions that the government of Sierra Leone is holding Dr Sylvia Olayinka Blyden and several other opposition politicians on detention.
Dr Blyden herself has been charged with seditious libel after expressing outrage about the inhumane conditions a prisoner is made to sleep for days, in a cell full of the stench of urine and faeces.
Dr. Sylvia Blyden is a journalist and human rights activist, with aspiration to contest presidential election in Sierra Leone.
Today, she will appear in court again for the third time, on seven counts of Libel, of which three concerns the expressed outrage over condition of detention of a prisoner. The remaining four counts are alleged libel of the current president.
The investigation of this serious development of prisoners without water as Corona virus spreads in the prisons was under taken by reporters from over ten newspapers including Awareness Times, The Times, Focus 24/7, Night Watch, For Di People, City Voice, Sierra Express Media, The Senator Newspaper, Voice of Salone, Standard Times, Satellite, Prime Times, Executive Premier Media, Calabash Newspaper and Forum News Papers.