By Ralph Sesay
Sections 63 (2) and (3) of part 11 of the Sierra Leone Constitution 1991 gives the President of the Republic of Sierra Leone a prerogative of mercy.
The above provision states that ‘’the president may, acting in accordance with the advice of a committee appointed by the Cabinet over which the Vice President shall preside grant any person convicted of any offence against the laws of Sierra Leone a pardon, either free or subject to lawful conditions.
In as much as we agree that this mandate squarely falls within the powers of the President, Sierra Leoneans are increasingly concerned that what comes before the prerogative committee appointed by the constitution for such purposes is now a matter of concern.
The list of various inmates released from the row from various Correctional Centers across the country for 2019 including a so –called female murderer who had previously won the First Miss Correctional Beauty Pageants was alarming.
Many residents who spoke to this medium have reported that the crime rate in their respective areas has largely increased.This they have blamed on the recent release of hundreds of criminals from the hook by the Presidential pardon committee.
The various processes used by Prison authorities before submitting prisoners for eventual release by the pardon Committee should be looked at with keen interest to ensure that the correct people who deserve such are released.
Is it the case that most or if not all the ones released are ones who must have served almost between 80 to 90 % of their jail terms or the ones serving minor offences in various correctional centers.
We are continuing to hear allegations of bribery of prison authorities wherein people serving jail sentences who have highly affluent families people are most times recommended for presidential pardon.
The experty and experience of the Legal Aid Board and the Prisons Watch Sierra Leone who are very close to the situation and understands what obtains in the various correctional centers across the country should be utilized with a view to ensure that the Prerogative Committee Presided over by the Vice President is given the correct information before undertaking their constitutional duties.
The Sierra Leone Police and the Judiciary are doing their best even though fraught with challenges to prosecute and punish offenders and it is the business of the Correctional Services to ensure that such inmates suffer the consequences for which they were incarcerated for.
Letting Murderers off the hook just because they won beauty pageants was a very wrong concept that has the tendency to breed more social justice issues in our respective communities.
The Legal Aid Board which has moving towards helping towards release inmates that have not been tried have use very professional and progressive methods to ensure that the victims parties are brought under the same roof with the inmates to discuss their freedom.
The Board had emphasized on a number of occasions that they are interested in perverting justice but only cares about long incarcerations without trails.
The Authorities at the various Correctional Centers must come out clean and makes the processes leading to the recommendation of prison inmates to the Prerogative Committee very transparent and accountable.
The process has long be clouded in secrecy thereby generating huge suspicions especially in a highly gullible society like ours.
Part of the current reforms at the Correctional Services should be geared towards making the process more inclusive and highly participatory to include other players outside the Correctional Services.
The Sierra Leone Police just after the Post War Restructuring Process has included a whole civilian oversight in both the Policing and recruitment patterns of the organisation.
These were efforts to continue to make the organisation highly transparent, accountable and people –led why not in the Correctional Services where the issues around the human dignity of the inmates is key.
We are looking forward to having such an inclusive process with regards the processes leading to the release of inmates for Presidential pardons.Lonta