The Gambia prison conditions are “harsh and life threatening”, says the United States in its Country Reports on Human Rights Practices for 2020 released last Wednesday by the US Department of State. 

In the report titled “2020 Country Reports on Human Rights Practices: Gambia”, the United States said The Gambia prison conditions in 2020 “were harsh and life threatening due to food shortages, gross overcrowding, physical abuse, and inadequate sanitary conditions.”

The report said “overcrowding was a problem, particularly in the remand wing of the state central prison, Mile 2 Prison in Banjul” where it said “detainees were held pending trial.”

“According to the NGO World Prison Brief, authorities in 2019 held 691 prisoners in facilities designed for 650. 

“Food quality and access to potable water, sanitation, ventilation, lighting, and medical care remained inadequate.

“There were credible reports that teenagers as young as age 15 were held with adults in pretrial detention facilities.”

The report said one-half of the Gambia prison population is in pretrial detention with many lock up for several years. 

“Backlogs and inefficiency in the justice system resulted in lengthy pretrial detentions. Many inmates in the remand wing of Mile 2 Prison awaited trail, in some instances for several years. 

“According to the Gambia Prison Services, approximately one-half of the prison population was in pretrial detention. The introduction of virtual courts, created in June in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, was part of the government’s effort to reduce overcrowding, particularly among the remand population.”

Reporting by Adama Makasuba 

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