Officers- in- charge of facilities and sections at the Sierra Leone Correctional Service (SLCS) have been capacitated on how to ensure that Covid- 19 is kept out of Correctional Centres.
Mr. Dennis Harman, who is the Deputy Director General of the SLCS, said that officers should realize that “our clients” are the inmates, emphasising that officers ought to ensure the inmates’ safety, security, and welfare.
The DDG recalled that “when Ebola came to this country, we were professional enough to keep it out of our centres”. He added that the SLCS will borrow some ideas from the blueprints of the institution’s precautionary measures during Ebola prevalence, to keep Covid- 19 out of “our facilities”.
Mr. Harman also stated that the SLCS has prevailed on the government to make funds available to the Department, so that necessary goods can be purchased for inmates’ use.
“During the Ebola period, we got a lot of help from the government and donor partners like the United Nations Development Programme and the International Bureau of Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs. The support, among other things, helped us in keeping Ebola out. If we get similar support, we believe we can keep Covid- 19 out of our facilities.”
Stating the importance of visits to inmates, he however, noted with dismay that all visits have been cancelled indefinitely, except for legal visits. Even for legal visits, he went on, officers should ensure that the visitor and inmate wash their hands properly, s/he is be- masked, and there should be a reasonable distance between the inmate and the visitor (lawyer).
Touching on security matters, the DDG said final locking up time of inmates should be at 4pm, and inmates’ movement should also be restricted.
“Our total holding capacity is 2, 345, but we have over 4, 000 inmates. Overcrowding is our major bottleneck, but we cannot use that as an excuse, especially at a precarious time like this. Our centres were overcrowded during Ebola, but we managed. We will reactivate the isolation centres which were constructed by the UNDP & INL, to keep incoming inmates for observation.”
By CO Leslie Cole- Showers (National PRO- SLCS)