UNICEF correspondent Guy Hubbard reports on efforts in Cameroon to improve conditions for incarcerated minors.
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Improving Conditions for Juvenile Prisoners in Cameroon
Guy Hubert: Living life behind bars, Pascal is just one of the 85 juvenile inmates doing time in Duala’s juvenile prison, here they live on top of each other, and they sleep and wash in an area made for only 30 prisoners. An open sewer runs through their cell block and all the mattresses are lice ridden. In the central prison, some boys are forced to sleep on the floor.
Pascal is only 14 years old, he was arrested for stealing and although he’s been here for over ten months, he has still not been tried. Many of the boys are here for even lesser crimes such as begging or smoking and unless they’re able to pay bribes, they too wait months and sometimes even years for their day in Court. Seventeen year old Bernard has been here for over three years, it took two of those years for his case to get to Court and now with nine months to go until the end of his sentence, he feels his lost on to life.
Bernard: My mother was coming to visit and I had a lot to seek and the last time they told me she was dead, I was very depressed because she was my only support here. Since then, nobody comes here to visit me.
Guy Hubert: Apart from the inhumane conditions, minors are also vulnerable to physical and sexual abuse by older inmates. HIV and AIDS are rampant but UNICEF in partnership with Cameroon’s ministry of social affairs is working to improve conditions for minors in the countries prisons. Televisions, educational materials, books, beds and blankets have been provided while UNICEF trains judicial police and prison officers on the correct treatment of children in conflict of the law. But the ultimate aim is to get Cameroon’s children out of prison and into rehabilitation centers. Preparation is under way for one such center in Duala and will provide schooling, workshops and most importantly space.
While they will be under constant surveillance with one social worker come order for every ten boys, they at least will have a better chance at life. Back in Duala prison, Bernard’s painting depicts a freedom he hasn’t known for three long years. Eventually he will have that both have an education and practical skills, life on the outside looks bleak. This is Guy Hubert in Duala Cameroon reporting for UNICEF television, unite for children.