‘This living cemetery,’ by a prisoner in Lome

Life…and the role of a prison

Life is a journey through time and space, and it is also a journey through trials and tests, through failures, successes and even deceptions.  Generally, these failures and tests can mislead men so that they become ill.  Sometimes, they can mislead men, such that they end up in prison.

Male prisons exist in various forms.  Let us consider here the conventional prisons – which are intended to be houses of arrest, and of correction.  Prisons, or corrective institutions, have the role of working on their inmates to release them as better people back into society.  Every observer can conclude that prison, if one doesn’t abuse it, can help everybody.  But unfortunately, certain African prisons are not and do not intend to be houses of correction, but houses of Hell. They are like living cemeteries, morgues.

The reality in Africa

Nowadays, the inmates of Sub-Saharan African prisons are crying for help.  De-humanisation is at its worst.  Inmates are living through every type of imaginable and unimaginable trauma.   These traumas lead to a loss of self esteem, to self abandon and to a tomorrow which is painted over in complete blackness.

How can people who spend the night from 17h30 in the afternoon to 06:00h in the morning in darkness, in a standing position, or in a sitting position in a cell full to the brim of people packed in like sardinessuffocating in conditions of extreme heat, hope to keep their head upon their shoulders?  Cells here that were built for 15 prisoners are now housing 80-90 inmates.  But the situation continues and continues due to varied and diverse reasons.

Today, every person should do what they can to correct this humanitarian disaster that is taking place inside our prisons.  Inmates are seldom eating even one decent meal a day.  And what sort of meal is provided?  You cannot imagine the quality, nor the quantity.  Needless to say, this is the cause of many types of illness and as a consequence, of sad and unnecessary deaths here in the prison.

The need

The prison is therefore a cemetery of sorts, and not a house of correction with real human values.  A humanitarian crisis is taking place here each morning with each sunrise, here, in our tiny little corner of the world.

Our people have a need for talking therapy.  Our people have a need to feel loved by something or someone.  Our people have a need to see a smile or a friendly face.


Lome prison

This piece was written (originally in French) by a prisoner in Lome Central Prison.  2016.

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