By Yankuba Jallow
Hon. Mai Ahmed Fatty has indicated that one of the key priority areas of his ministry is to effectively manage and improve conditions in all prisons and detention centers.
The Minister of Interior made this remark whilst responding to questions raised by the Banjul North National Assembly Member, Hon. Ousman Sillah at the fifth sitting of the Second Ordinary Session of the National Assembly, in the 2017 Legislative year. The Banjul North NAM asked the Ministry of Interior whether he agreed to the fact that the State Central Prison at Mile II is very close to the Banjul dumpsite which poses a great health risk to prisoners. In his response, Minister Fatty said he is in agreement with the Banjul North NAM. He added that his key priority is to effectively manage and improve conditions in prisons and detention centers, including the human rights conditions and service delivery for prisoner’s rehabilitation.
“The location and condition of Mile II are not acceptable,” the Minister said. He averred that government has plans to build a modern prison and his ministry is with the view that Mile II should be closed once this new prison is built. He also said there are negotiations pertaining to the structural design of this new correction facility to be built. However he could not specify the date when the relocation will take place as they are looking for resources.
He said there is a Prison Council created by an Act of the National Assembly but there is nothing like a Prison Service Council. He said this while responding to a question posed by Hon. Fakebba N.L. Colley, the NAM for Kiang West.
The Minister of Interior refuted a question asked by Hon. Foday N.M. Drammeh, NAM for Tumana. Hon. Minister Fatty said in a serious endeavour to do justice, he had made an extensive research into the Constitution and did not find any provision of the claim. He was previously questioned how and where the juvenile offenders are supposed to be kept. Some suggested that they should be kept separately from adult offenders. The Tumana NAM went ahead to say the reality on the ground is that the police stations do not have separate cells for such juvenile offenders. Minister Fatty said he has not seen a provision in the Constitution that states that juvenile offenders should be kept separately from adult offenders. He added that his ministry is aware of the provisions of the Children’s Act and where practical and reasonable, juveniles are kept separately from adult offenders.
The Minister said there are some people currently held in detention for over two years whilst some have been detained there who have never appeared in court. He added that those people cannot be released now because the ways of a government are different from the other ways. He noted that there is already an established committee called Criminal Cases and Detention Review Panel by the Ministry of Justice to review all persons in remand wing on pre-trial condition.
The Minister, in his bold state said there are some people detain for 4,5,6 and 7 years at Mile II and they are looking into their issues.
He further said the budget that is disbursed to the Prison Department in terms of feeding and staff salary is forty eight million, five hundred and forty one thousand, eight hundred and thirteen dalasis (D48, 541,813.90). He clearly stated that the Ministry of Interior does not provide the prisoners with the medication needed and that it is provided by the Ministry of Health and Social Welfare. He asserted that twenty two million, six hundred and twenty two thousand, one hundred and twenty three dalasis and ninety four bututs (D22,622,123.94) was spent on salary whilst the remaining amount which was twenty five million, nine hundred and nineteen thousand, six hundred and ninety dalasis (D25,919,690) went on food.
“The prisons did not receive any funds for medications, all medications are provided by the Ministry of Health” he said. That created doubt in the minds of some NAMs who questioned the huge sum of money spent on food because the food in the prisons are not good and lacks quality. Minister Fatty said those were the statics provided for the expenditure of January 1, 2016 to December 31, 2016 by the former leadership of Yahya Jammeh, the former President of Republic of The Gambia.
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