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Waiting for an Opportunity

Fernando Moleres | Sierra Leone

01 Juveniles in Prison, Sierra Leone
Pademba Road prison , august 2010
Every morning dozens of prisioners from Pademba prisons are taken to the court . Many of them need to go many times before have a sentence. A prisoner told me that he went more than 50 times to court. They can be remand prisoners during years before have a sentence. In Pademba they are more than 1300 prisoners.

 WAITING FOR AN OPPORTUNITY
In 2010, I did a photographic essay on the situation of minors held in the maximum-security prison of Pademba in Freetown, Sierra Leone. Many of them spend years awaiting trial living in terrible conditions.

The juveniles are released after long periods without rehabilitation The lack of opportunities when they go out is directly related with recidivism rates.

The new project now is focused on following these young people once they leave jail, whether they return with their families or are abandoned to the streets. For the majority of these minors, no one is waiting for them outside.

Abdul is a boy I found in Pademba in 2010. I freed him by paying his bail, but he returned to the streets and eventually ended up in jail again. After five years alternating between prison and the streets, he finally chose to find refuge in the Free Minor Africa program. He now goes to school and lives in the Saint Michael Center.

 01 Juveniles in Prison, Sierra Leone
Pademba Road prison , august 2010
Every morning dozens of prisioners from Pademba prisons are taken to the court . Many of them need to go many times before have a sentence. A prisoner told me that he went more than 50 times to court. They can be remand prisoners during years before have a sentence. In Pademba they are more than 1300 prisoners.

02 Juveniles in Prison, Sierra Leone
Pademba Road prison , feb. 2010
Sarh Monserey-the boy in the center- entered into Pademba prison in 2007, he was 13 years old and charged with murder. Abdul had gone down to the river with his best friend who subsequently drowned. The child´s family accused Abdul with murder and he has spent the last four years in prison awaiting trial.

03 Juveniles in Prison, Sierra Leone
Pademba Road prison , feb. 2010
Ibrahim Sesay being interrogated by prisoners for the disappearance of a pair of slipper of a cell.Ibrahim case : he was accused of stealing a mobile at his school. He was arrested on 08.24.2009 and spent eight days at the police station without food. The police report awarded him 19 years instead of the 14 years he says he has. Sentenced to 18 months in prison in Pademba.

04 Juveniles in Prison, Sierra Leone
Pademba Road prison , feb. 2010
None of these children received legal assistance at his trial, nor received any family visits.Left: Manyu Dalami, 16 years. They accused him of stealing 100.000 leones (25 Euros). Trial without prosecution witnesses or incriminating evidence. Sentenced to three years in 2008. His parents do not know that he is in prison.Left center: Cago Ibrahim, 17. He was accused of lack of objects inside a car. sentenced to two years in prison.
Centre. Lebbise Steven, 17. Accused of stealing two sheep and sentenced to three years, Dead in prison spring 2010.
Center-right. Mohamed Musa, orphan. He was accused by his uncle, with whom he lived, for the robbery of 10 gallons of palm oil. Sentenced to two years in prison.
Right: Aruna Mahi. Do not know age. He has two causes: first one sentenced to six years, on the other cause has not been trial.

05 Juveniles in Prison, Sierra Leone
Pademba Road prison , feb. 2010
Officer in the registration room. In Pademba are around 1300 prisoners and for experience it is not easy to find a prisoner records There are many names and surnames similar and carelessness and negligence of the officers is evident. Their salary of 30 euros per month dont help to improve the situation.
Many prisoners remain years in prison before his trial start.


06 Juveniles in Prison, Sierra Leone
Pademba Road prison , feb. 2010
Food scarcity requires to remand prisoners (240) to ensure food delivery . There is only one solid meal daily consisting of rice and leaves . Juvenile are the big losers of the distribution of food and water. The distribution of water is a big problem with one third of a liter daily that is not always guaranteed. If you have money you can buy water or food. But the vast majority of prisoners dont receive visits and therefore have no access to money.

07 Juveniles in Prison, Sierra Leone
Pademba Road prison , august 2010
Isaka, takes several days lying on balcony´s floor of the infirmary with severe dysentery does not let up. He has not received visits from his imprisonment in 2008. He was accused of stealing fishing nets. Pending trial.

08 Juveniles in Prison, Sierra Leone
Pademba Road prison , feb. 2010
30 m2 cell for 60 inmates and 16 hours inside with a bucket as toillet. Most prisoners have scabies and others skin infectious diseases. they spent eight months without receiving a bar of soap. The biggest problem is the lack of drinking water. Remand prisoner block in Pademba.

09 Juveniles in Prison, Sierra Leone
Pademba Road prison , august 2010
Inmates bathing with rainwater. The raining season its a pleasure time because the inmates can bath themselves.
One of the main problem in Sierra Leone prisons is the lack of water. There is not running water. Sometimes there is not drink water for all except you have

10 Abdul Sesay 2010
Pademba Road prison , august 2010
Abdul Sesay was jailed on 26 July 2010 in remand section of Pademba prison , the maximun security prison of Sierra Leone.
This day trhat i met he was not taken the meal and the water that they get per day. Why? because he was to small to fight for food.


11 Abdul Sesay 2012
Abdul Sesay attendind the trial in the juvenile court in Freetown 23 oct 2012.
Abdul was accused of steal a mobile phone from a man. On 23 oct he was discharge after Fernando paid the cost of the mobile to the owner. Then he was released and he went to the rehabilitation center of Saint Michael where he is living .
Two years before ,August 2010, he was send to adult court with 14 years old and then to Pademba prison , it is an example of Sierra Leone Justice.

12 Abdul Sesay 2012
Abdul Sesay On 23 oct was discharge on the trial in the juvenile court after Fernando paid the cost of the mobile to the owner. Then the project Free Minor africa buy cloths , any thing necessary to go to Saint Michael rehabilitation center.


13 Abdul Sesay 2012
Abdul Sesay on 23 oct he was freed from indictment charges Then i took him to the rehabilitation center of Saint Michael where he took a bath from long time ago.


14 Abdul Sesay 2012
Abdul Sesay on his first day at the school after five years on the streets and prison. He is at class 5 of primary school with much jounger students and he is living in Saint Michael center 20 km far from Freetown.

15 Abdul Sesay 2012
Abdul Sesay doing homeworks with his friend Michael. Both live in saint Michael center and go to the same class. he is very keen to go to school and recover the lost time on the streets...

16 Abdul Sesay 2012
Abdul Sesay, orphan, in his new home Saint Michael center . Here he has three meals , a room and education . He start a new life after living on the streets the last 5 years. He was in prison in 2010 .

 

 

 Fernando Moleres
Statement
My interest in bringing public attention to issues of injustice has also been fueled by personal experience and the work of other documentary photographers. In the 1980s, I participated in protests in Spain supporting Basque nationalist demands for independence. These experiences helped me feel solidarity with people struggling in other parts of the world. I travelled to Nicaragua in 1987 during Sandinista times as volunteered to help with the coffee harvest and serve as a medical nurse. I also discovered photography. Taking pictures allowed me to get closer to the events I was witnessing and provided me with a valuable tool for creating dialogue about the injustices and struggles I encountered during my travels.
My belief in the power of images was deepened by Lizzie Sadin´s photographic exhibition in Perpignan 2007 on incarcerated minors in Madagascar. The images shocked me and prompted me to look further into the horrible situation faced by juveniles detained in African prisons. The written reports I found had very few images to convey the grim conditions they described. I was determined to produce photography that would raise awareness by clearly defining what conditions were like for minors in the Pademba Road prison in Freetown, Sierra Leone.
When I arrived at the prison I found thirteen hundred prisoners living in terrible conditions. Many of them spend years awaiting trial. The lack of legal assistance prevents them from effectively defending themselves and pursuing their release. Their lives are threatened by the prison living conditions. Hygiene is non-existent, food and water are scarce, and there is a constant struggle for survival that leads to tension and violence. Moreover, juvenile inmates suffer violence at the hands of the older adult prisoners.
My photo essay on the experiences of young people in Sierra Leone’s prison has been published in the European press (The Independent, Le Monde Magazine, The Sunday Times, El Pais,..), but I feel that the story has not done much more than acquaint a broad audience with this tragedy. However, I continue to think about people like 14-year-old Mohamed Conteh, an orphaned street urchin who was accused of possessing a small quantity of marijuana. The police denied Mohamed food for four days while he was in custody and asked for 30,000 leones (7.5 euros) which he did not have. After several months in prison awaiting trial, he was convicted and given the choice of three years in jail or a fine of 100,000 leones (25 Euros).
My photography has become the first step in my effort to help young people like Mohamed. I have decided to build upon the awareness that my images help generate by creating the Free Minor Africa project that offers legal aid, bail payments to those incarcerated for minor offenses and a rehabilitation scheme that have started on oct 2012. FMA in collaborating with Saint Michael center provide shelter, and education for young people who have served their sentences but have no family and few resources to help them reintegrate back into society. Abdul Sesay lives there now, attending school after surviving five years alternating between the streets and prison. . Other youths as Abu prefer to work, as mechanics or as drivers, such as Mohamed Conteh who is in process to obtain his driver’s license--but to do all this, they need some initial help to start the change in their lives.

I create the NGO Free Minor Africa to help the juveniles in conflict with law and we are collaborating with FHM in saint Michael center in Lakka , Sierra Leone.

 www.fernandomoleres.com

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