PETER ARIIK KUOL
The United Nations Mission in South Sudan together with the Catholic Diocese of Rumbek have begun the extensive work of turning the prison in Cueibet in the Greater Lakes region into a facility more likely to prevent inmates from escaping. Hygiene among staff and prisoners is also expected to improve.
“The conditions of our prison are, as you can see, not ideal, and it makes it hard to maintain law and order. The wardens are tasked with not letting inmates escape, but the prison is very open,” says Isaac Mayom Malek, Minister of the Local Government and Law Enforcement Agency.
In fact, the keen observer will note that prisoners, including some convicted of murder, spend significant amounts of their daytime sitting under a big tree, in an open space, with no fence in sight. As a result, the temptation to leave the imaginary confinement sometimes becomes impossible to resist, which puts citizens living in the vicinity at risk.
The UN-financed Quick Impact Project – small interventions expected to speedily make a significant difference – includes the erection of a perimeter fence, constructing an ablution unit for male inmates and refurbishing the two main existing cells, one each for men and women.
While seeing their hopes of an easy escape dwindle, male prisoners still look forward to the completion of the project.
“I hope this work by UNMISS will bring change, especially for us men. As it is, we don’t have a toilet of our own,” one sometimes locked-up man says.
And radical changes there will be, according to UNMISS human rights officer John Oziegbe:
“Our work will discourage jail breaks, save lives of innocent neighbouring residents, halt unauthorized movements to the prison and boost hygiene and sanitation for inmates and prison wardens alike.”