Cabinet Approves $270,000 For Prison Reforms In South Sudan

The government points out infrastructural challenges, insecurity, budget constraints and other political problems that hinder efforts to prioritise the improvement of the prisons in the country. [AFP, Tony Karumba]Dr. Barnaba Marial Benjamin, government spokesperson told the press after the council of the Ministers meeting that the approval came after the issue was endorsed in the Council’s resolution number 12 last week.

Marial said the amount was approved “for quick reforms of the prisons like for women prisons and the treatment of mentally ill individuals in the prisons.”

South Sudan prisons have repeatedly stood a prey to human right activists for having unfavorable conditions for in mates.

Reports by activists have repeatedly cited some of the prisons in the country have no separate facilities for women and children. Others have been reported to contain both children and women and others do have inadequate health facilities, a situation that tantamount to high scale of human rights violation in the country.

In 2012, the Human Rights Watch launched an investigative report depicting the status of human rights in South Sudan prisons.

The 105-page report titled “Prison Is Not for Me: Arbitrary Detention in South Sudan”, documents violations of due process rights, patterns of wrongful deprivation of liberty, and the harsh, unacceptable prison conditions in which detainees live.

During the launch, South Sudan Vice President Dr Riek Machar said that the report will help his government in soliciting for suitable solutions to address the challenges facing the prisons department.

The research was carried out in twelve of the country’s 79 prisons during a 10-month period before and after South Sudan’s independence in areas with the largest prison populations.

It revealed that, a third of South Sudan’s prison population of approximately 6,000 has not been convicted of any offense or in some cases even charged with one, but are detained, often for long periods, waiting for police, prosecutors, and judges to process their cases.

The vast majority of detainees have no legal representation, because they cannot afford a lawyer and South Sudan has no functioning legal aid system, adding that Judges pass long sentences and even condemn to death people who, without legal assistance, were unable to understand the nature of charges against them or to call and prepare witnesses in their defense.

The government pointed out infrastructural challenges, insecurity, budget constraints and other political problems that hinder government’s efforts to prioritise the improvement of the prisons in the country.

Human Rights Watch interviewed more than 250 inmates and a range of justice officials, correctional officers, police, prosecutors, and traditional authorities.

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