Freetown Correctional Centre publishes report into Pademba Road prison riot

Sierra Leone Telegraph: 8 July 2020:

Following the aftermath of the rioting that took place on the 29th April, 2020, at the Freetown Correctional facility, Pademba Road, leaving several prisoners dead, injured and serious destruction to buildings and property, Officers of the Freetown Correctional Centre have conducted an  investigation and published their report.

According to the prison authorities, the aim of the investigation was to find out the causes of the rioting, assess the damage caused as a result, determine the number of casualties, and to make recommendations that would prevent such disturbances from happening.

Yesterday the senior officers of the Correctional Centre discussed their findings at a press conference which was also attended by the country’s pathologist – Dr Owiz Koroma, who conducted post-mortem on those killed at the riot.

The report identifies overcrowding in the correctional centre as one of the major causes of the riot. Pademba Road Prison was opened on the 14th March 1914, by British colonial authorities to cater for a maximum of 324 inmates. At the time of the rioting there were over 1,000 prisoners at the prison, which according to the report of the Correctional Centre is 400% overcrowded.

The report says that staff shortage at the facility was also another factor that caused the riot. It says that the prison is 40% understaffed which is insufficient to provide adequate security for the entire facility.

The report further states that there was staff recruitment underway, but the Covid-19 outbreak brought the process to a halt.

According to the report, the reported Covid-19 index case found at the prison, led the prison authorities to impose a ban on movements in the prison, to prevent the spread of the virus among inmates. This decision the report says, was angrily received by the inmates which contributed to the eruption of the riot.

The report also mentioned the decision by the Chief Justice to suspend court sittings as another possible causative factor for the disturbances at the prison, as was the closure of the retail outlet within the precinct of the prison.

According to the report, the riot started around 7.30 am and ended at 11 am on 29th April 2020, causing significant damage to the workshop, stores and other buildings.

The report states that the inmates held some prison officers as hostages and repelled any attempt by the officers to bring the rioting under control, by throwing stones at the prison officers, pushing the officers back as the riot worsened.

The report also states that rival prison gangs clashed, attacking one another. This the report says may have caused the number of casualties to rise. As a mitigation measure to control the violence, the Authorities said that police officers fired teargas into the prison facility but to no avail, thus prompting the intervention of armed military personnel.

According to the report, the military used reasonable force to control the rioting. However, the high number of dead prisoners and those injured have brought into question, the use of live ammunition to stop the riot.

Today there are calls for an independent, judge led investigation into the rioting at Pademba Road prison and the massacre of thirty unarmed prisoners by live bullets fired by armed military personnel believed to be presidential guards.

The reports also failed to address question about why ruling party executive committee members and senior government ministers were present at the prison just hours before the start of the rioting. Why were they there?

This is a summary of the findings of the report presented by senior prison officers at a press briefing yesterday:

CAUSES

overcrowding; Pademba road Correctional Centre houses all categories of inmates (especially high risk); On that day, there were 1, 300 inmates (400% overcrowding), in a centre built to hold 324 inmates; Staff shortage (40% under strength); Covid-19 outbreak prevented recruitment, which was in the pipeline; Index Covid-19 case led to drastic measures instituted that restricted movement within the facility; Suspension of court sittings; Closure of the tuck shop (retail outlet within).

RIOT

Started around 7:30 am and ended around 11am; Inmates damaged workshop doors and set stores and some other buildings on fire; ️held some officers hostage, and pelted stones at officers; rivalry between inmate groups within the centre clashed and wreaked havoc on themselves; OSD personnel initially fired teargas into the centre to restore calm, but failed; armed personnel forced their way in and used reasonable force to restore calm.

DAMAGE ASSESSMENT

Stores, catering, reception, hospital, and workshop (Le 20 billion); inmates refused to yield to orders to return to their cells

AFTERMATH

31 fatalities, including 1 Corrections Officer; 12 inmates died from gunshot wounds; 16 inmates died from blunt force; 2 inmates died of illnesses; 21 inmates sustained injuries; 32 Corrections Officers sustained injuries; 6 of the corpses have been identified and given befitting burials by their families; 24 are still in the morgue, unidentified

MOVING FORWARD

The setting- up of a riot command post; Psychosocial support to affected persons; Multi- sectorial engagement to ensure better reforms in the SLCS.

7 Comments

  1. “The reports also failed to address question about why ruling party executive committee members and senior government ministers were present at the prison just hours before the start of the rioting. Why were they there?”
    the above has been the central focus, which needs a clarification, the people still need clarity.
    But notwithstanding, the issue of overcrowding, low staffing and other little issues needs urgency in-other to have a decent and well managed Correctional Service. Service simply means the inmates should be served in the most appropriate ways, whilst facing justice or serving their penalties

  2. One may not want to sound negative but it has been a ritual by various governments in highlighting problems rather than proffering solutions. Pademba Road prisons is overcrowded, the Guma Dam is stretched beyond capacity, there are no DNA kits to prosecute alleged rapists and the list goes on. The Pademba Road capacity is a joke and in all these years I am pretty sure another facility should have been completed. Some of these inmates can even be out helping the community. This idea of waiting for funding outside for things that are so important beggars belief. Yet we have a bloated government with some jobs where the holders are redundant, because there are no resources to carry out their functions.

  3. The report of the investigation into the Pademba Road prisons massacre was just another DAMAGE MANAGEMENT exercise of the gradual failure of the politics of thuggery, impunity and sycophancy established by Maada Bio’s paopa SLPP. And, the timing of the report was designed to divert attention from recent events including: the unfavourable outcome, on the part of the government, in the Paolo Conteh treason trial; the sudden deaths of the three patriotic APC compatriots from Koinadugu district; and the unethical sacking of the Attorney General, Dr Priscilla Schwartz. Even the the pictures of the Officers that purported to have conducted the investigation did not meet the eye. It was just a mere formality to cloak their backs in their complicity towards this horrendous incident.

    Notwithstanding, the very statistics of the findings of the investigation were inaccurate. Instead of 300 percent of overcrowding of the Correctional Centre, the report inflated this fact to 400 percent. Perhaps, the aim of this premeditated error was a blatant attempt to schew the blame from the reality of this occurrence. The findings also seem to unequivocally expose the notoriously deceitful President Maada Bio, who had explicitly stated that the ‘jailbreak’ had the hallmarks of the Opposition APC party; and by extension labelled the party as domestic ‘terrorists’. Until an independent judge led investigation is conducted, the bare facts of this barbaric act will never be known. Now, it is the duty of journalists, Civil Society Organisations (CSOs) and Parliamentarians to exert constant pressure on the government to come up with the truth of this matter.

  4. This report is just a white wash. Much I sympathise with the overworked, under staff prison guards, this report fails to address key issues. Yes in any given setting overcrowding can result to unpredictable, and unprovoked violence. When people are locked up in overcrowded cell rooms that are not fit for human habitation, there is only one outcome – riots. The suspension of court hearings and the realisation COVID19 might be in circulation, would have created mistrust amongst the edgy prison population.

    There are many questions left unanswered in this report. What were government or SLPP party agents doing at the prison in the morning of the riots? Did their presence provoke the riots? Were they questioned by the investigators of this report? why was the presidential guard involved in something that the Sierra Police could have handled by themselves? The police are trained for riot control. Soldiers are trained for wars. Who gave the orders to deploy the presidential guard?

    For the families that lost loved ones, are they getting any form of compensation? Because in vast majority of cases you will find people find themselves on the wrong side of the law, because of the everyday battle for survival in today’s Sierra Leone. At the end of the day someone needs to take responsibility for the loss of innocent lives. It cannot be right, even if you are a prisoner of the state, you can’t escape the nasty political division that are being perpetuated outside the prison walls. There should be a judge led independent investigation of the riots, with the powers to call witnesses to account and make recommendations. Other than that, we are still left in the dark. May the souls of those that lost their lives rest in peace.

  5. Outstanding and brilliant analysis there by Stargazer. Until an independent investigation into the matter is setup and the matter thoroughly investigated, the present findings won’t fly in my view. God bless Stargerzer and may the souls of our prisoners and prison officers RIP.

  6. “ Index Covid-19 case led to drastic measures instituted that restricted movement within the facility; Suspension of court sittings; Closure of the tuck shop (retail outlet within).” While many questions remains unanswered, we at least now have an official underlying cause of the riotous conduct as opposed to the ‘APC orchestrated prison break” being peddled by extremist PAOPA supporters who are only interested in stoking the flames of hate and division within our community. President Bio seems to have a lot in his plate, and must act soon and faster if there are any chances left to save his administration.

    While I happen to be an ardent critic of the president, I personally believe he has good intentions to change the trajectory development aspect of our nation. However, due to his obvious poor leadership skills, always leading from behind, as opposed to setting the tone, extremist elements within the POAPA cult have seize the opportunity to advance their agenda. Upon assuming office, there were some glimmer of hope as the president attempted to disprove his critics by announcing the free education, monthly cleaning, punctuality at work, mandatory single treasury account, and the setting of a commission of enquiry for all past corrupt practices. However, before the blink of an eye, extremism took hold as we witnessed the politicization of everything, starting from the massive dismissal of anyone deemed to be opposition sympathizers from the civil service, to limiting the commission of enquiry to only a few selected opposition members.

    As time progresses, political intimidation became the order of the day as the regime strives to consolidate ‘absolute power’ by all means — hijacking the parliamentary speakership position and later removal of 10 opposition MPs. From here on, things continue to disintegrate with the president seemingly unable to step up and lead our nation. So Mr. President, now that so much damage has been done, please revisit the drawing table and get back to basics. Our nation needs the leadership you campaigned on, changing the doing of things to a new way, not the old way, providing security for all citizens, and ensuring the rule of law and justice for all.

  7. These figures Prison authorities have provided to the general public look quite suspicious and fraudulent;they have been carefully manipulated for the purposes of deceiving our gullible nation once again,there’s no doubt about that.Credible independent sources have long insisted that over 40 unarmed inmates were gunned down by military trained assassins,brutally beaten and slaughtered by Bio’s henchmen.And here they come,puppets on rods,and strings with their fabricated report?Now run along and tell those wicked fraudsters,tricksters and fleecers to come Clean – not buying any of it at all.

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