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Sierra Leone leader appoints new prisons boss

Sierra Leone’s President Julius Maada Bio has appointed a new head of the country’s prisons, ending months of infighting over who succeeds the former head.Mr. Joseph Lamboi, the current Acting Director General of the Sierra Leone Correctional Services (SLCS), has been formally appointed to the position. 

He was Deputy Director General of the institution until his former boss, Sanpha Bilo Kamara, stepped down last month after attaining the official retirement age.

Mr. Dennis Harman has been named Deputy Director General, the position he has also been occupying in an acting capacity since the retirement of Mr Kamara.

Both appointments were made public by the SLCS through a statement issued via its Public Relations Office on Thursday.

The two appointments are subject to parliamentary approval, the statement said.

The New DG, according to information on the website of the institution, joined the service on in September 1980, and he has held several positions, from welfare officer, officer-in- charge of several district correctional centers, commandant of the correctional service training school, to Public Relations Officer. Mr Lamboi has also served as advisor of the UN mission in Sudan, UNMIS.

SLCS comprises 16 facilities nationwide. 

The most popular among them is the main detention center in Freetown, formerly officially known as Freetown Central Prison but better known as Pademba Road prison, because of its location on a popular street called Pademba Road.

Sierra Leone’s prison system, notorious for its state of overcrowding, is undergoing a reform. 

The renaming from the Sierra Leone Prisons to the Sierra Leone Correctional Services was a part of that reform which began with the passing of the Sierra Leone Correctional Services Act in 2014.

It’s all part of the ‘Transforming from Prisons to Corrections’ project, which is being implemented in partnership with the United Nations Development Program (UNDP) with support from the Bureau of International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs (INL) of the US Department of State. 

The goal, according to the government, is change it from a place of punishment to a place of reformation. 

This means prisoners will be provided opportunities to learn skills during their

incarcerations.

But many human rights watchdogs say the change in name has had a very little, if any meaning on the lives of inmates, many of whom complain of violation of rights. 

There are particular concerns over congestion, poor file management, poor health and welfare of inmates’ condition.

According to the SLCS statement, these concerns are some of the issues the new management has vowed to address.

The new Deputy DG, Dennis Harman, was quoted saying they were committed to ensuring that inmates get all what is due them, cautioning that any officer who is caught pilfering any item belonging to inmates, would face disciplinary action.

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