Monday, 25 June 2012
Legal Education in Prison
By Hawanatu Kamara, Extern at AdvocAid
I’m a legal extern working for AdvocAid which is an organisation advocating for women and children in conflict with the law. As part of my job, I conduct legal education sessions in police station, prisons and schools.
During one of these sessions, I visited the Pademba Road Prisons and spoke to the remand prisoners. I went with a fellow extern and we interviewed the prisoners together. During the interview it came to our knowledge that some of the prisoners have been there for four to five years and their cases have never been called, heard or tried.
In addition, most of them were remanded in the first place because they did not fully understand the legal process and court proceedings while their cases are being tried. Those without legal representation said they were not even asked questions or allowed to talk while they were in court. According to the Criminal Procedure Act 1965 sections 15 and 97 and the Sierra Leone Constitution page 12 and the Fundamental Human Rights, an accused person have a right to a fair trial. They also state that an accused person must be tried in a language in which he understands and he must be allowed to explain and give facts about his case if he or she cannot afford a lawyer.
However, though they were disgruntled about this, the prisoners were a lot more cheerful and cooperative than we had expected. They listened, asked questions and answered ours in return. We talked about bail, arrest, court proceedings and life in prison.
Before this time, my opinion was that a prison is a very discouraging and depressing place to be without any good thing to look up to but after this visit, I realised that this is not the case.