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May 25, 2015

The Forgotten of Africa

type: NGO, Petition, Project, Protest
by: Deniz Zehra Tavli

At Muala Prison in Malawi, the prisoners sleep on the concrete floor, so tightly packed they cannot turn except en masse. Some cells hold 160 prisoners. A daily meal consists of one portion of porridge while they have to spend 14 hours each day in a cell, unable even to move. The water is dirty; the toilets foul. Disease is rife.

The inhumanity of African prisons is a shame that hides in plain sight. Black Beach Prison in Equatorial Guinea is notorious for torture. Food is so scarce in Zambia’s jails that gangs wield it as an instrument of power. Congo’s prisons have housed children as young as eight. Kenyan prisoners perish from easily curable diseases like gastroenteritis.

Some of Africa’s one million or so prisoners - nobody knows how many - are not lawbreakers, but victims of incompetence or corruption or justice systems that are simply understaffed, underfinanced and overwhelmed. Kenya’s former prisons commissioner suggested last year that with proper legal representation, a fifth of his nation’s 55,000 prisoners might be declared innocent.

The most immediate and apparent inhumanity is the overcrowding that Africa’s broken systems breed, compounded by disease, filth, abuse, and a lack of food, soap, beds, clothes or recreation. A survey of 27 African governments by Penal Reform International found that national prison systems operated, on average, at 141 percent of capacity. Individual prisons were even more jammed: Luzira Prison, Uganda’s largest, holds 5,000 in a 1950’s facility built for 600.

SAVE A LIFE wants to offer information through their website to support awareness of the inhumane circumstances which Africa's prisoners have to endure. There are several ways one can help and make a difference in a prisoners life. Write a prisoner a personal letter and make his day, send a care package or participate in one of their campaigns by signing a petition against violations of human rights and social injustice as it prevails in Africa's prisons.