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By Leslie F. Cole- Showers, PRO, SLCS

Every country, the world over has standard operating procedures for law offenders. Some countries, are still hung up on the belief that law breakers should be brought to their knees instead of to their senses.

If the world should be a better place to live, every nation should focus on transforming lives instead of demolishing them, by solely placing premium on punishment instead of correction. Come to think of it, people respond quicker to parental care than brute force. Brute force can make good prisoners, but only parental care can make good citizens.

In Sierra Leone, law offenders are no longer locked in cells with thrown away keys, but are given the chance to unlock their potentials. Potentials which they can use to sustain themselves, should they walk out of any of our centres, which is often the case.

In all the years leading up to 2014, the Sierra Lone Correctional Service used to be known as Prisons. While it was Prisons, the institution’s brand logo was ‘2 keys’ signifying locking and unlocking. However, since Prisons transformed in 2014 to Corrections, there have been so many accompanying concrete and abstract changes that befit modern offender management principles.

For example, some of the abstract changes involve the re- doing of the SLCS’ brand logo from keys to flame, star, and keys; the change of name from Prisons to Corrections.

The recent logo is a complete and accurate depiction of the kind of work that the SLCS does in developing inmates to become not only law abiding citizens, but also to be productive in society, upon their release.

Flame: this signifies hope.

Star: this signifies that the SLCS wishes for its clients (inmates) to succeed in society, should they venture into any legal business. In other words, we want them to become stars- society should look up to them for assistance, when necessary.

Keys: stand for locking and unlocking offenders.

The institution’s name didn’t change because it wanted to bear a name that pleases the ear, but to make meaningful contributions to society by changing lives, through the implementation of the trinity principles- reformation, rehabilitation, and reintegration.

As an institution, our belief is firmly rooted in the fact that people can change, and in our estimation, if we can change lawbreakers’ mind set, we’re implicitly changing the nation.

United Nations Standard Minimum Rules for the Treatment of Prisoners (the Nelson Mandela Rules)

Rule 4

1. The purposes of a sentence of imprisonment or similar measures deprivative of a person’s liberty are primarily to protect society against crime and to reduce recidivism. Those purposes can be achieved only if the period of imprisonment is used to ensure, so far as possible, the reintegration of such persons into society upon release so that they can lead a law-abiding and self-supporting life._

In view of the above excerpt, the SLCS’ maximum centre situated in Freetown Pademba road, has tailoring, carpentry, shoe- making, welding, brick making, computer lab, adult literacy classes, and drawing sections.

International law stipulates that imprisonment should not be limited to the deprivation of liberty alone. Rather, it should include opportunities for prisoners to obtain knowledge and skills that can assist them in their successful reintegration upon release, with a view to avoiding future offending. As imprisonment, in itself, is incapable of addressing prisoners’ social reintegration issues, the International Covenant for Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) requires that _“the penitentiary system shall comprise treatment of prisoners the essential aim of which shall be their reformation and social rehabilitation”.

The United Nations Standard Minimum Rules for the Treatment of Prisoners (the Nelson Mandela Rules) are the single most important set of international standards that: “set out what is generally accepted as being good principles and practice in the treatment of prisoners and prison management”.

Following an extensive intergovernmental review process of the original version, approved back in 1957, the revised rules were adopted by the United Nations General Assembly in December 2015, thereby constituting a truly updated blueprint for prison management in the twenty-first century. In its basic principles, these rules very clearly establish that the provision of rehabilitation programmes in prisons, which foster the willingness and ability of prisoners to lead a law-abiding and self-supporting life upon release, are crucial to reduce recidivism and to improve public safety—the ultimate objective of any sentence of imprisonment.

Furthermore, No 88 of the Mandela Rules states:

The treatment of prisoners should emphasise not their exclusion from the community, but continuing part in it. Community agencies should, therefore, be enlisted wherever possible to assist the prison staff in the task of social rehabilitation of the prisoners.

To honour the above recommendation, the SLCS has forged partnership with diverse non- governmental organisations- such as Life- by- Design, a locally owned NGO, aimed at impacting lives, in order for them to help train inmates. And that is what they have done since our marriage with them.

In 2018, the Government Technical Institute (GTI), with funds provided by the United Nations Development Program (UNDP) & the International Bureau of Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs (INL), conducted technical training for 200 inmates and 35 officers.

LbD, on the other hand, did train 50 inmates and over 40 officers in Business Entrepreneurship. The idea is such that inmates don’t just have technical skills, but also have business know- how. That’s one way they can forge a sustainable future.

The officers who benefitted from the training are expected to transmit the knowledge gained to future inmates, when the current crop of trained inmates shall have been discharged.

In addition, all the inmates who were recipients of the foregoing trainings, were provided with monies, which have been deposited in their bank accounts. The seed cash was provided by the UNDP & INL. Each of the bank accounts were credited with the sum of $140. That amount, swells with time, based on the sales made from the inmates’ hand work.

Presently, preliminary agricultural work is ongoing on the grounds of one of our facilities- the Mafanta Correctional Centre situated in the provinces. The centre is blessed with 557 acres of land. Plans are underway to commence mechanised farming with the help of the Simiria Agricultural Development Organization (SADO). A lot of inmates will benefit from that activity. As a matter of fact, the SLCS has indicated that it wants to start feeding the Mafanta and Magburaka Correctional Centres by the year 2023. Should that plan see the light of day, it will ease the financial burden on the government, because as at press time, every inmate in the country is being fed by the government.

Moreover, the literacy rate in Sierra Leone is very low. According to the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), as at 2013, Sierra Leone had an adult literacy rate of 32.43%. It is no surprise that a high number of offenders have never darkened the corridors of academia. With the help of Don Bosco Fambul (a local charitable non- governmental organization), the SLCS has stepped up its operating standards by conducting adult literacy classes for illiterate inmates. This is particularly prevalent at our maximum centre in Freetown and the Sefadu Corrections Facility in Kono. The classes conducted have the semblance of a school system.

In addition, both the male and female Corrections Facilities in Freetown have introduced computer classes for inmates. For the male section, the classes are being facilitated by Don Bosco Fambul. The tutors present with power point, for ease of learning. Certificates are usually awarded to inmates who complete the course(s).

The United Nations Special Rapporteur on the Right to Education has equally reported that learning in prison is generally considered to have a positive impact on recidivism, reintegration and employment outcomes. More specifically, he recommended that comprehensive education programmes should be arranged, aimed at the development of the full potential of each prisoner: These should aim also to minimize the negative impact of incarceration, and improve prospects of reintegration, self-esteem and morale.

Giving prisoners opportunities to learn new skills and to build work experience, will help them stay away from crime when they leave prison, thus contributing to the overall mission of prison administration to contribute to public safety. As mentioned above, there is a good body of research that shows that in many countries, (i) prisoners have low levels of education and basic skills; and that (ii) improving these skills can have a positive impact on recidivism, social reintegration and employment outcomes. Prison-based rehabilitation programmes therefore help to make communities safer and reduce the levels of dependency of former prisoners.

In June 2018, LBD conducted training for 30 graduate officers on Case Management.

These officers have begun work in Freetown, because they have become somewhat knowledgeable in the discipline. They sit face- to- face with sentenced inmates in a bid to try and get the fact from them about the crimes they committed. Case Management serves as a tool of redemption for inmates, because inmates’ minds are emptied of their offending ways, and replaced with progressive and meaningful thoughts.

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