Pademba Prison Program
You may ask ‘why the prison?!’ The perpetrators of crimes against our daughters are helped? Let’s not forget that not all those in prison are guilty of their crimes. We realized that there are needs and a lot to be done in the Pademba Prison as it is called. This comes in form of providing emergency medical assistance, counselling, feeding to the sick and skinny ones. Furthermore, we help to pay court bills of inmates who cannot afford it. In the line of being open to new frontiers the Salesians in Sierra Leone commit themselves in reaching out to young people in prisons.
Aims-objectives: to offer them help for their primary needs (feeding, washing, caring for their medical-dental health), psychological needs, spiritual needs (educating them to human and religious values), legal support to seek for their freedom, offering them personal advice, tracing their families, reunifying them and helping them to get re-inserted in their families and in society. Helping them to recovering hope and “meaning” in their lives.
Why is this apostolate/programme important for our community? What kind of service render to the prisoners? Does it make any impact in their lives? In Which sense?
There is a deep impact in their lives, even from a spiritual point of view: sharing the Word of God to them in the Eucharist and preparation of baptism; caring for the sick inmates feeding those who are malnourished. We target the poorest of the poor in our society (feeling abandoned, lonely, guilty, without redemption…) We are in the heart of our Salesian Mission. Moreover, it has been assumed by the community. We ALL participate in this programme (Mass on Fridays) The inmates can see the witness of a prayerful and united community, which prays with them and for them. The main beneficiaries are selected from among all prisoners: the younger ones (20 years average) and we try to cover primary needs. We select the weakest, the sick, the malnourished, the downhearted. It offers them new hope and meaning in their lives. They receive food assistance (nutritive extra food), medical care (medicines, possibility of undergoing operations, dental treatment, etc), personal and group counselling, clothing (T-shirts & sandals), hygiene kits and the opportunity of having a bath. Most important among all is the legal advice and support offered to some of the prisoners, especially the youngest ones. Even though, the service is not permanent due to lack of funds, some cases were resolved positively and inmates were freed.
However, family tracing has been done in some cases with success and a re-unification process achieved. It could be very helpful to organize regular visitations to the freed inmates to follow up their reintegration process (family, work, society, other institutions). Some freed inmates have been helped with packages for studies or skills training. We should consider few cases of younger inmates who could be integrated in our programme “group homes”, etc. Some inmates have said it literally: “I am alive thanks to Don Bosco”.
Legal Support: PPP had successfully sought local partners for collaboration in the field of legal advice and support. Through the support of Legal Aid Board many teenagers have been released at the beginning of the project. Later on, the focus shifted to inmates who were waiting for their indictment documents for more than three years (79 of them). A good number of these inmates were released. Furthermore, an agreement with the Justice & Peace commission (Caritas) of the Archdiocese of Freetown was signed in relation to the legal services and counselling of inmates. Other partners in the last two years have been “Defence for Children SL”, “Amnesty International SL”, and “Centre for Accountability and Rule of Law” (CARL SL). PPP had also worked together with the Minister of Justice (MoJ)/Attorney General, Director of Public Prosecution (DPP) and the Ministry of Social Welfare, Gender and Children´s Affairs (MSWGCA). The MSWGCA has always received an up-dated list of minor inmates. They finally contacted the DPP and the courts for transfer of minors to Approved School or Juvenile Remand Home.