The director-general of Congo’s prison service, Paul Morossa, has admitted serious overcrowding in prisons, but does not think imminent improvements are possible.
Prisons built 70 years ago - one in Brazzaville, meant to accommodate 150 inmates, and one in Pointe Noire, meant accommodate 75 - currently house 700 and 300 inmates respectively, he told IRIN.
“The difficulties we face are due to the fact that our prison system is old. New structures have not been built to match the growing number of prisoners. Management and funding issues will be difficult to address in the immediate future,” he said. “We have serious problems.”
At the same time, he welcomed the recent presidential pardon of 164 prisoners, “because our prisons are full”.
Morossa’s remarks come after the recent publication of a report by the Congolese Observatory of Human Rights (OCDH), which describes appalling prison conditions.
The NGO pointed to a widespread lack of adequate healthcare, sanitation and decent food.
“Prisoners live in inhumane conditions… They live in a state of total insalubrity,” the OCDH executive director, Euloge Nzobo, told IRIN.
“They lack latrines and frequently defecate into cans or bags. Many infirmaries lack medicine or nurses,” he added.
“For lack of nets, they are often bitten by mosquitoes and contract malaria. They also suffer from amoebas,” the report said, adding that many prisoners had to rely on relatives for their food.
For his part, Morossa described the report as “excessive” and pointed out that the government was set to build several new prisons in different parts of the country.