By Arret Jatta
A female prisoner (name withheld) believes that the government forgets to pardon female prisoners when they decide on prisoners to pardon. “What I noticed is that since 2021 I have been here, the government does pardon but they don’t even think about us the women. And we the women our time is wasting here, although we made mistakes, all of us came here so that we can realize our mistakes at least they should help us, the women” she said.
The inmate highlighted that women have limited time when it comes to childbearing, “our time is wasting as women we need to have children, some of us [have not] even had a child yet and some of us we have children and they are outside, we don’t have any information about them. All these are things we are going through so we beg the government” she said.
She acknowledged the civil society organisation that initiated the prison visit, saying since 2021 she has been in prison, “It’s only through the [civil society organisation] a woman was pardoned, it’s only that one we are happy with so they should help us [so that] when we go outside we will be better people in society”.
Similar concerns about “pardons” were raised by other female inmates.
A basic search of the President’s social media page and the news highlights that six inmates were pardoned in April 2022, all appearing to be male according to their names. In late December 2021, President Adama Barrow pardoned 21 prisoners which “was made following the recommendations by the Prerogative of Mercy Committee”. According to the statement from State House “among those pardoned are sixteen Gambians, one of whom is a female, three Senegalese men, a female Bissau Guinean and a Guinean man”. Paradise TV adds that “a lady and her month-old baby” were part of those pardoned.
Contrast that with the pardoning of a convicted child molester. It can be recalled that back in 2018 one of the most regrettable pardons took place when President Adama Barrow pardoned a convicted Norwegian child molester Mr Svein Age Sanderker. So, it appears all sorts of convicted criminals are getting pardons but very few and far between for women.
The concerns of the low number of female pardons were raised during a dialogue organized by members of the Kanifing Municipal Council National Youth Parliamentarians and Peace Network to talk to prisoners about the challenges they face in prison, to educate them on the importance of peace in our country and reintegration into society as well.
The Deputy Director of Prison Service Mr. Modou Jarju said, all the inmates are human beings like any of them, “they deserve to have access to all the fundamental human rights as part of your purpose of visit to promote proper reintegration, promote peacekeeping, and providing assistance on their health status”.
“As part of the Security Sector Reform process, we are obliged to create the enabling environment for this great contribution through you as a success”.
“Furthermore, as part of our mandate, the aim and objective is to reduce or avoid recidivism, reinstate and maintain peace and order in our country. These are challenges that can only be resolved with collaborative efforts” said Mr Jarju.
Mr Jarju also highlighted that the prison as an institution is pleased to announce to the public that part of its key function is to provide various social services in the form of reform and rehabilitation processes and programs. which will help support the persons in conflict with the law to be adequately equipped with different life skills and prerequisite knowledge in different fields.
Some of the life skills mentioned include “electrical installation, construction, satellite installation and even horticulture to this we are proud to say plays a pivotal role in the lives of these people since it transformative” he said.