Maison Centrale, Guinea
In 2005, while interning with Adventist Development & Relief Agency (ADRA) I got the chance to tour Conakry's prison, the Maison Centrale. The conditions were beyond deplorable with extreme overcrowding and severe malnutrition. Children as young as ten years were detained for petty theft, and prison staff were not always careful to ensure that the juveniles were kept separate from the adults. There were over one thousand detainees in the Maison Centrale which was originally built to house no more than four hundred individuals at its maximum. The overcrowding was (and still is) in large part due to a failed justice system. Approximately eighty-seven percent of the prisoners were languishing away in the Maison Centrale, waiting for a trial and official sentencing. There are no computers in any of Conakry's courts, nor are their accurate systematic records kept. Many of the detainee's files go missing, and without an attorney they are likely to remain in detention for years before they are released. In response to the devastating situation, a prisoners' advocacy center was started by ADRA. In 2006 the advocacy program found a new home with a local NGO of attorneys and paralegals called Les Memes Droit pour Tous (translated: The same rights for all). I returned to Guinea in 2007 to work with MDT on an emergency hospital intervention program for prisoners. I also supported a project to document the abuse and torture suffered by prisoners at the hands of the local police: Three pictures from that project are included in this set.
Prison overcrowding and abuse is a pandemic problem that continues to impact men, women and children across the globe. Further information on Guinea's prisons can be found in the 2006 Human Rights Watch report titled "The Perverse Side of Things" at www.hrw.org/en/reports/2006/08/21/perverse-side-things
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