Some of the one hundred and forty one inmates recently released under presidential pardon have expressed regret for their crimes and vowed to comport themselves in order not to be imprisoned again.
They made these confessions on Friday 20th May 2016 just after they were pardoned under the President’s Prerogative of Mercy.
It was observed that almost all of the freed imamates looked healthy and well-fed and the secret they say was as a result of fair treatment given to them by some of the officers despite all the odds.
However, some of the inmates were jubilant, seen smiling and waving their hands as they crossed over from life behind bars into the free world.
Hassan Kamara a person with disability said: “I feel glad today to return home to see my mother in Monrovia, but first I am going to my brother in Kenema.”
Hassan was convicted on an issue of money (five million which he paid two million) for the purchase of cacao. He said the person that he gave the money ran away with and he had to bear the brunt of imprisonment.
“I spent one year six months in Correctional Center. I came in as a disabled. I thank God for my life but the treatment I was given was unhappy. I was feeling bad to be imprisoned for the sake of another person; the treatment of being locked up and forcefully asked to go to bed was a suffering.
I will now go home and steady on my lane and will not go and boast against the complainant. I will go to my work place if I am re-accepted and I will work again or else go back to Liberia. I hold no grudge against the person that complained me and will not go and intimidate or cause disturbance.
I want to call on young people and disables to be patience and do something that will make us happy; by trying to do something to make money for ourselves,” he reasoned.
Ibrahim Koroma another released inmate cannot be unhappy about his freedom but his time spent behind bars.
Responding to the question of comparing freedom to that of life in prisons, he said; “it incomparable, because in prison we are not allowed to do as we feel like with guards always around.”
He recalled that his crime of larceny was as a result of a commercial bike which he gave to someone to assist him to ride and which got stolen; noting that life in prison is uncomfortable.
He said that he is now ‘repentant’, and believes that God will fight for him instead of him taking revenge on his prosecutor or complainant. Explaining that; “after here I am going back to my Bike Union at Up Gun before going home to Waterloo. The Union did nothing for me while I was in jail, they have done theirs; my feeling is that I will find another thing to do and avoid bike riding because of the lessons I have learned in jail,” he said.
It is said that a black man’s sorry is laughter, so it was when another guy known as Artist took to stage to exhibit his musical prowess in a so-called after-jail performance in the forecourts of the Correctional Center.
His song pondered over his prosecution stating that it was a false allegation and set up giving but also giving credits to some of the officers who treated him fairly.
His case is related to phone theft but he said: “I am not sure that I am going to steal any more phones.”
“I am going to be serious, I want to go and do music, I want to urge the public to help me any kind of way with my music,” Alhaji Nasiru Kamara alias Mickey Mike, artiste said.
On the other hand, ASP Mohamed Opito Jimmy Public Relations Officer Sierra Leone Correctional Service in an exclusive interview said that President Ernest Koroma under his prerogative of mercy released over one hundred convicted prisoners across the country but some critics are saying that one reason for the growing spate of crime is as a result of the lenient treatment and eventual release of inmates from behind bars.
Opito Jimmy said that the release will help in decongesting the correctional center in line with the vision of the presidential pardon of 141 people include three female inmates.
He explained that the released prisoners have served more than three third of their sentences on minor crimes like traffic offence, larceny, loitery and was as a result of the Prerogative of Mercy Committee headed by the Vice President that a request of a selection of best behaving, illness among other criteria.
Responding to suggestion that the release is necessitated by the lack of adequate accommodation in the prison facility, Opito said: “that will be one of the factors, and can be the strongest factor for releasing inmates behind bars.”
He noted that Pademba Road Prisons was built in 1914 to accommodate 324 inmates adding that this has vastly overgrown with over one thousand inmates adding that there are nineteen Correctional Centers with a capacity of one thousand, one hundred and eighty-seven adding that the Service today has over three thousand inmates.
As to whether the release of the inmates is undermining the course of justice and is an injustice to the victims of the convicts, Opito said it is a matter of debate.
He said: “looking at it from another perspective as a Correction Officer, I think it is fit to release those who have served more than their time and behave well within the Correctional Center. It sets a precedent for other inmate to follow the good conducts of that are released.”
Opito argued that the Presidential pardoning cannot be a bad precedent giving leeway to convicts to commit more crime.
“If this is the case then obviously nobody will be in our Correctional Center, because it will look like the Prerogative of Mercy Committee will just release everybody but if it is premised on suggestions and recommendations; and that if one commits a crime they are going to suffer behind bars for it.
I don’t mean torturing the convict, but enforcing of our mandate as custodian in looking up. Our mandate as custodian is to keep one safe and produce them back to society,” he explained.
On whether he accepts the proposition that such a prisoner release makes room for more violation of the law, Mohamed Opito Jimmy said that; “I cannot attest to that, I can’t agree to it because we have more inmates than we have released.
This is just few and it does not mean that crimes are not committed in the country. Crime has been happening, it is not because of present government, the previous governments were doing similar release on Independence and New Year’s Day, it is quoted in the Constitution, Section 63 stating the prerogative right of the president.”
It should be noted that the Correctional Center in a meeting with the Parliamentary Committee on Internal Affairs registered it fear that some of it suppliers will desist from supplying because of the arrears owed to them by the government but the PRO said that the administration is taken care of that.