- Published: Monday, 27 July 2020 15:09
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Pan Africa Citizens United for Rehabilitation of Errants (Pan Africa CURE) is a continental chapter of International CURE, a global grassroots prisons and criminal justice system reforms organization which began in 1972 in San Antonio, Texas, USA by Charles and Pauline Sullivan, who organized families of prisoners and concerned citizens to go to the State legislature in Austin to work against the death penalty.
In 1975, CURE moved to Austin and organized an annual convention. In 1985, CURE expanded to a national organization and established an office in Washington, DC.
And in 2001, CURE had its first international conference in New York City and was granted consultative status with the United Nations. Currently there are 2 confirmed country chapters in Africa, one in Ghana and the other one in Nigeria. There are also many other countries whose chapter statuses are provisional or unknown, hence the need for Pan Africa CURE to midwife the birth of such chapters and coordinate the interactions among the chapters.
Like the other chapters preceding it, Pan Africa CURE is a direct result of the biannual international conferences that International CURE continues to organize every two years, the most recent one being the 8th International Conference on Human Rights and Prisons Reforms in 2018 from May 21-25 in Kigali, Rwanda. This was the third time International CURE organized a conference in Africa and from where the idea of creating the Pan Africa CURE chapter originated.
The first CURE International Conference took place in in Abidjan, Cote d’ Ivoire, under the aegis of L’Ami Fidele and International CURE from 4-17 August 2007 and included a two week training seminar / workshop.
The second CURE conference in Africa, also the 5th International CURE World Conference, was convened at the Shehu Musa Yar’Adua Centre, Abuja, Nigeria from February 21-24, 2011. About 180 human rights and prison reform advocates from more than 25 countries around the world attended this conference.
Pan Africa CURE is created to help coordinate the affairs of all the existing chapters in Africa as well as help to start as many country CURE chapters in Africa as possible.
Conference participants in Rwanda, May 2018.
Charlie Sullivan, President of International CURE in a discussion with participants during the 8th CURE Conference in Rwanda in May 2018.
Group photo of the participants in the Kigali, Rwanda International CURE Conference, May 2018.
Group photo of the participants in the Abuja, Nigeria CURE Conference February 2011.
OVERCROWDING IN PRISONS
1,130,675 is the total number of prisoners in the continent of Africa by the end of 2019 according to available data in the public domain. This includes pre-trial detainees and remand prisoners and represents an overcrowding percentage of between 150% and 300% in some countries. In some cases the juveniles/minors/young prisoners are held together with adults in the same holding cells in the detention centers. Women and are also held together in same cells some places.
This phenomenon is exacerbated by the attitude of judges, lawyers, magistrates and prosecutors towards cases, arbitral adjournment of cases, arbitral arrest and detention of suspects by the police, corruption, and lack of good legislation to deal with the issues, among others.
This sad situation has drawn the attention of Pan Africa CURE, other civil society groups and NGOs calling for reforms in the criminal justice and prison systems across the continent.
Pan Africa CURE believes that urgent steps should be taken to reform the criminal justice and prison systems by:
providing all detainees with access to legal representation,
improving prison conditions,
reducing the use of prisons, and
embarking on police reforms, and above all,
Creating jobs for the teeming youth population.
If the above issues are not immediately addressed, the prison population will continue to swell and prisons will remain incubators for diseases that affect the larger society.
The illiteracy levels will rise as children of incarcerated parents will drop out of school while some children grow up in prison with their parents. Crime rate will increase as bread-winners are put behind bars, and prisoners are released into society without any skill to cope after spending many years in detention.
Overcrowding also poses serious health risks for the incarcerated persons. A prevalent of communicable and deadly diseases such as COVID019 (coronavirus), HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis, hepatitis B & C, itch, cough, cholera, asthma and typhoid fever is recurrent, including the frequency of suffocation, assault between inmates themselves, homosexuality, lesbianism and sodomy in detention centers.
Due to overcrowding, bedding, clothing and food worries for prisoners still persist and they are compelled to rely on their families or outside organization for additional necessities. In view of these realities in the prisons of Africa, we must all together pay heed and be aware of the living conditions of the prisoners regardless of their current social status.
Although many governments in Africa have committed to improve prisons’ conditions, the situation is still dire and a lot of things require our immediate attention in several fields:
Adequate sanitary conditions,
Nutritional food, drinking water,
Adequate medical service and
Education including skills development.
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