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Sudan Tribune

Plural news and views on Sudan

Overcrowded Unity State prison needs more capacity

August 14, 2012 (BENTIU) – Unity State prison is overcrowded with prisoners and needs to be redeveloped to increase its capacity and improve standards, local authorities told Sudan Tribune on Tuesday.

Group of chained prisoners at prison compound talks about their health conditions. 14 August 2012 (ST)
Group of chained prisoners at prison compound talks about their health conditions. 14 August 2012 (ST)

Prison officials called on developmental organizations to facilitate renovating the prisons residential area for renovation and improve poor facilities and access to clean water.

Human Rights Watch (HRW) in a report earlier this year called on South Sudan to stop arbitrarily arresting its citizens and improve its “dire” prison conditions.

Lt Col Younis Orac Tipo, Director for Unity State’s prison services said that the 142 inmates in Bentiu prison were living in congested in rooms and called on the state government to improve conditions. The prison was built to hold only 100 inmates.

The HRW report earlier this year said that “flawed processes, unlawful detentions, and dire conditions in South Sudan’s prisons reflect the urgent need to improve the new nation’s fledgling justice system.”

HRW visited 12 of the country’s 79 institutions and found that most of the facilities were either “damaged or crumbling” with cells that were “unhygienic, severely overcrowded” and without “sufficient ventilation”.

Tipo adding that people to death sentences and those who had only committed minor crimes were kept in the same rooms. However, children and women were in a separate room he said.

Unity State Prison Director talks about the conditions of prisoners in Bentiu town. 14 August 2012 (ST)
Unity State Prison Director talks about the conditions of prisoners in Bentiu town. 14 August 2012 (ST)

Unity State’s government has built an incomplete prison center, 20 kilometres outside Bentiu but it was not finished due to insufficient funds.

An upgrade is also needed as some prisoners are able to escape. Because the prison is in a densely populated area guards say they are unable to shoot at escapees.

Peter Gatluak Tai, a prisoner serving six months for murder (sentences can be significantly shortened in South Sudan if compensation, usually paid in cows, is quickly provided to the family of the deceased), told Sudan Tribune that the government needed to provide water and recommended the government to build a water tank within the prison.

“In the morning some people will go to bring water somewhere else, we have food here, food is present the problem is only water so if possible let the government bring us donkey to bring water from the river”.

Unity State Prison is home to eight children arrested for committing crimes such as theft. Others are there for impregnating girls under the age of eighteen.

Gabriel Machot Paluath, 15, was arrested for stealing a DVD player and says he regrets his actions. He urged other young boys to focus on education rather than crime.

Unity State’s prison services held a joint meeting with developmental organizations, including the UN Mission in South Sudan and the United Nation Development Programme last Friday to discuss rehabilitating the prison services in the state.

In Unity State prisoners are suffer in unhygienic conditions. Many are heavily sick and do not receive proper medical attention.

The HRW report earlier this year said “flawed processes, unlawful detentions, and dire conditions in South Sudan’s prisons reflect the urgent need to improve the new nation’s fledgling justice system.”

HRW visited 12 of the country’s 79 institutions and found that most of the facilities were either “damaged or crumbling” with cells that were “unhygienic, severely overcrowded” and without “sufficient ventilation”.

(ST)

ST – Juba says Human Right Watch report “not objective”