Friday, July 19, 2024

Second chance: BKF Frees 16 inmates from Mile 2 Prison

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By: Dawda Baldeh

Sixteen inmates – one female and fifteen males – have been released from Mile 2 State Central Prison following payment of their fines by Bob Keita Foundation (BKF) on 15th June 2023.

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The inmates, who were serving sentences on minor offenses, were reunited with their families and loved ones as they as their fines were paid for by the Foundation.

Babucarr Keita (Bob Keita), the founder and president of BKF, and former detainee at the prison outlined the motive behind the initiative.

“I was in prison for two years and I have seen the conditions that inmates are going through. One day, a young prisoner came to me and told me that he needed one thousand dalasi to pay so that he could be released. I told him straight then that he will go home that day because I would pay the one thousand.

He (the prisoner) told me that our crimes were different as his own was a minor crime and if he paid the one thousand dalasis he would be released. I called my family and they paid, so the boy was released,” Bob told inmates at the Mile 2 Prison.

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The former detainee added that since that day he vowed to bring an initiative to support pay for inmates with minor offenses for which fines are imposed by the court.

“The prison should help to reform people, but if you look at our system, it is very bad. What you see outside the prison is small; if you get inside you will be traumatized because it is very bad,” he added.

Bob, who was speaking in an emotional state reflecting on what he passed through during his detention at the prison, called on the inmates released to change for good and become better people.

“Whatever you see in life is a purpose and Allah knows the best. I come here because I have a good relationship with the prison officers but the system here is very bad.

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This is not their problem but they inherited it. Government should shut down the prison because it is not fit for purpose,” Bob Keita emphasized.

According to Bob, his detention has taught him that there was more to life than enjoyment.

Mamanding Saidy, a representative from the Ministry of Interior, said the event is worth emulating.

“This is a great initiative and it is the first time a former prisoner is coming to us with such. We all know that the prison is a place where nobody wants to come, but who knows we might find ourselves here any day.

In life, you will either go to prison or you are safe at home, you will either live or die,” he explained.

He expressed the Ministry’s appreciation for the initiative, adding that their role is to reform the institution to make sure whoever finds himself/herself in prison will not feel like he/she is in hell.

He called on the inmates who are released to thank Allah and the BK Foundation for their release and work towards changing their lives.

Odile Jassey, Pupil State Counsel, who represented the Ministry of Justice (MoJ), reminded the released inmates not to fall again in what led them to the prison.

She said: “It is in the interest of the public to try alleged persons and it is also not in the interest of the public to have alleged persons not tried. This is why anyone who is accused is tried and if the law finds the person not guilty, he/she will be released.”

She told the 16 inmates that they should put in mind that they have already tested the prison, adding that they should stay away from anything that will likely bring them back to prison.

Alagie Jarju, executive director of National Youth Council, thanked the BK Foundation for coming up with the initiative.

“I’m not sure most Gambians are into such initiatives, supporting prisoners [convicted] for minor crimes. You need to work hard to ensure that what led you into the prison doesn’t happen again,” he told inmates.

He expressed the Ministry’s willingness to support the young inmates in the transition process to be reintegrated back into society.

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