Conditions in civilian prisons, which were under the Ministry of Justice, remained harsh and life-threatening. Poor sanitation, malnutrition, disease, and lack of medical attention resulted in dozens of deaths. Prison guards routinely threatened, beat, and sometimes tortured prisoners to extract confessions or to extort money, although there were fewer such reports than in previous years. All prisons were overcrowded. Conakry Prison, for example, held 1,280 prisoners at year’s end, although it was built to house 300.
A local NGO reported that half of the female prisoners in Conakry Prison had been beaten or abused during the year. One NGO reported that prison guards regularly exploited and harassed girls under the age of 18 by demanding sexual favors in exchange for additional food or water.
Neglect, mismanagement, and lack of resources were prevalent. Toilets did not function, and prisoners slept and ate in the same space used for sanitation purposes. Access to drinking and bathing water was inadequate. Many prisons were former warehouses with little ventilation. Temperatures were stifling, and electricity was insufficient. Although some prisons replaced tin roof panels with transparent ones, most prisons were dark.
NGOs reported endemic malnutrition throughout the prison system, which did not provide food or medicine to inmates. Prison directors relied on charities, the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), and other NGOs to provide food for inmates. Most prisoners reported eating one small meal a day consisting primarily of rice and sauce, although some prisoners reportedly received two daily meals. Some inmates relied on assistance from families or friends to maintain their health, but relatives often abandoned prisoners due to the difficulty and cost of travel to the prisons. Guards often demanded bribes in exchange for delivering food to inmates and routinely confiscated prisoners’ food.
Inmates were not tested for HIV/AIDS upon entry into the prisons, and no statistics on HIV/AIDS infection rates were kept. Lack of medicine in prisons, combined with endemic malnutrition and dehydration, made infection or illness life threatening. In several regions prisoners with tuberculosis were held together with uninfected inmates.
Although the Ministry of Justice administered civilian prisons, military officers and guards--along with untrained and unpaid volunteers who hoped for permanent entry into the military--managed and staffed the facilities. This system was difficult to manage and particularly vulnerable to corruption and abuse. Some prisoners exercised more power than the guards, controlling conditions and cell assignments and providing better conditions to prisoners who were able to pay. There were reports that some prison administrators followed directives from their military superiors, even when they were in conflict with orders from the Ministry of Justice.
NGOs estimated that 4,000 prisoners (including between 50 and 100 women) were incarcerated in 32 civilian prison facilities nationwide. Statistics on incarcerated minors held nationwide were unavailable, but a local NGO reported that of 130 minors incarcerated at Conakry Prison, 14 had never been formally charged or tried, several had been imprisoned for more than six years, and others had grown up in the prison. No information was available on the number of children incarcerated with their mothers nationwide. The government did not provide for children’s food, clothing, education, or medical care in prison.
In most prisons men and women were held separately, but juveniles generally were held with adults in prisons outside the capital. Pretrial detainees were not separated from convicted prisoners, and the prison system often was unable to track pretrial detainees after arrest.
Conditions in military prisons, which were under the Ministry of Defense, could not be verified since the government denied access to prison advocacy groups and international organizations.
Gendarmerie detention facilities commonly were used to hold civilian detainees while they were being processed for transfer to civilian facilities. Such temporary detention could last anywhere from a few days to several months. Like prisons, gendarmerie facilities were dank and fetid, although some facilities--such as those housing persons suspected of involvement in the attempted assassination of President Conde--were better constructed and had light and ventilation. The government allowed international organizations and NGOs access to prisons run by the gendarmerie.
Prisoners and detainees were not permitted reasonable access to visitors or granted religious observance. Prisoners and detainees have the right to submit complaints, but seldom exercised that right due to fear of reprisals by prison guards and the gendarmerie. Prison authorities did not investigate credible allegations of inhumane prison conditions, and the government did not investigate or monitor prison or detention center conditions.
The country had no ombudsman to serve on behalf of prisoners and detainees to consider alternatives to incarceration for nonviolent offenders, monitor the status and circumstances of confinement of juvenile offenders, or improve pretrial detention, bail, and recordkeeping procedures to ensure prisoners were not held beyond their maximum sentences. Nevertheless, the Association for the Support of Refugees and Displaced Persons in Detention, a local NGO that maintained offices in all prison facilities, regularly interceded with the Justice Ministry and prison officials to alleviate overcrowding, improve pretrial detention, and keep judicial processes moving without the commonly used tactic of bribery. While prison conditions remained grim, such interventions resulted in some improvement, such as the provision of reed mats for sleeping and the distribution of meat during holidays.
The government permitted prison visits by local humanitarian and religious organizations that offered medical care and food for those in severe need.
The ICRC was allowed regular access to all civilian detention facilities and continued partnership programs with prison and security authorities to improve civilian prison conditions.