Mamudu described the Gambia’s prisons as death chambers. Mamudu, while describing the harshness of the prison conditions, said those who entered prisons left alive only by the grace of Allah.

Even for ordinary criminals, the Gambia’s prison conditions are brutal. From the food, sleeping arrangements, medical services, overcrowding to sanitation, the prisons are not designed to rehabilitate but to dehumanise the prisoners.

And although the law prescribes relatively humane ways of treatment of prisoners these are largely ignored through lean budgetary allocations, the level of training of prison warders and a cumbersome process for prisoners to demand these legal rights.

Because they were regarded by prisons’ authorities as enemies of the state, conditions for former Gambia Produce Marketing Board offices, the National Intelligence Agency, torture survivors who went to prison were made extra harsh.

Ironically, a lot of those who went to prison did so after pleading guilty to avoid the inhumane torture they were being subjected to at the NIA headquarters.

But it did not take long for them to realise that the difference between the torture at the NIA and at the prison was more of time rather than intensity.

Because they wanted to achieve their goals in a short period, the torturers at the old GPMB buildings, Lt. Colonel Sana Manjang and his group, did their job fast. But the prison conditions inflicted more pain and claimed more lives in the long run than the Jungulers group at the NIA.

Political prisoners, including those jailed for the 2006 attempted coup, were ridiculed and beaten by prison warders whenever an opportunity was found.

Indeed, the degrading treatment started immediately one entered the prison gates.

Mamudu tells his experience at Mile Two Remand Prison Wing: “Finally, I was escorted to the next check point.

“Take off your clothes including your underwear and shoes and give them to that police officer over there, then come back here,” the guard ordered.

I hesitated … I thought the guard was pulling my leg. “Mamudu, did you hear what I just said?,” the guard screamed.

Reluctantly, I obeyed the order. He examined my ears, armpits, nostrils, genitals and then he commanded, “Turn around and bend over with your legs apart…Damn-it, bend over more… and if you fart, I will skin you alive.”

By Alagi Yorro Jallow

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