Cells are collective. Most prisoners sleep in a narrow bed, on the ground or on a prayer mat with several others. Cells are poorly lit and poorly ventilated. The heat is suffocating, particularly between March and May, when temperatures can reach 45 degrees. Some prisoners are able to sleep in the courtyard, however this is considered a privilege. The administration does not provide any covers during winter. Between November and January, temperatures can fall to -5 degrees.
At night a foul odour enters the cells, because of the uncovered chamber pots.
New arrivals are often obliged to pay to the cell leader – another inmate – or a guard for a place to sleep.
A meal is served once a day. Prisoners cook for themselves. The food, mostly millet bread with okra sauce, is served on a collective plate for a group of six to 10 people. The food provided is inadequate and the weakest inmates often receive nothing.
Prisoners can buy food – inside and outside the prison – or ask their families to contribute to meals. Suppliers sometimes inflate prices or sell expired food. If the bills go unpaid, they can stop supplying the prison. The price of commodities is higher in northern prisons because of distance.
No special attention is given to the diet of sick prisoners, minors or nursing mothers.
Lack of water is a problem for all Chadian society. It is the main barrier to maintaining proper hygiene. Certain prisons have a well, while others have a pump with a generator. Pumps are often defective and do not satisfy the prisoners’ water needs.
Showers are taken only a couple times a week. Laundry is rarely done. This promotes the spread of skin disease and parasites (lice or scabies). Water that is available is often contaminated. Its consumption can lead to gastroenteritis or diarrhoea. Boiling water is difficult, as coal and wood are rare.
Soap and sanitary towels are not provided by the administration. Families and humanitarian associations sometimes compensate with supplies.
According to a report published by Amnesty International in 2012, prison toilets and sewages are in poor condition. Stagnant water mixes with wastewater and excrement. Prisoners must use plastic buckets. A foul odour pervades the cells.
Recurrent illnesses are malaria, diarrhoea and scabies. Scabies is especially present in the most crowded establishments and in humid regions in the south of the country.
Medical personnel are not always trained. They include members of the National Police station or other prisoners. The lack of material and medicine means that prisoners do not have access to quality healthcare. Sickbays are used as cells when the prison is extremely overcrowded or when the lack of medical supplies render them useless (Moussoro, Baibokoum, Goulougaya and Pala).
Prisoners suffering from mental illness are chained, isolated and do not receive treatment. People suffering from tuberculosis and HIV are rarely treated. There is no screening or record of infected prisoners. The prison administration does not distribute contraceptives, even though unprotected sex is common. Prisoners suffering tuberculosis are not isolated from other inmates.
Seriously ill prisoners are transferred to the general hospital in N’Djamena at the cost of the family. Sometimes inmates must pay the guards to be allowed to go to the hospital.
Drug use is widespread (marijuana or Tramadol). Tramadol is a highly addictive opioid. Although it is forbidden in Chad, prison staff or prisoners sell it in compressed form for 100 CFA francs (around 0,16 euro).
The central courtyard is accessible from 8:30am to 5:30pm. There is no space for sports. NGOs and religious groups sometimes organise activities but they are limited. Card games and draughts are allowed.
Joiner’s workshops are offered in Sarh. In Bongor, prisoners keep a communal vegetable garden with sorghum and okra.
Mondou Prison has a library.
There are three categories of work: chores, selling objects made by the prisoner and work outside of the prison. There is no work contract or formal salary provided.
Chores are assigned and managed by prisoners organised in “mairies”. The main chores are given to more vulnerable prisoners, including children. Chores include, cleaning the cells, removing garbage and preparing meals (looking for water and wood, cooking). Prisoners are compensated with small privileges like a piece of bread or an additional piece of soap. If a prisoner refuses to do their work, they can be punished with various forms of abuse.
Prisoners can choose to do individual work activities. The most common activities are hand-knitting, basket-weaving, sewing and small trade. Materials must be brought into the prison and prisoners must find a way to send their work outside the prison. In some prisons, earnings are placed in a common cashbox which is managed by the prisoners themselves. In these cases, the prisoner who created the objects collects his savings upon leaving the prison.
Some civil servants and army officers employ prisoners without approval from the prison staff. It is common for prisoners to do housework, without pay, for people who hold positions of authority in society.
The prison administration does not provide any educational programs. Occasionally, some prisoners organise literacy classes for other inmates.
Prisons in Mondou, Bebedja, Kélo, Bébé and N’Djamena provide professional technical training. Joinery, ironwork, or sewing workshops for about 15 people are offered. Most prisoners are not interested in these activities. A certificate is placed in the prisoner’s file once they have completed the training.
Those prisoners locked in cells after 5:30pm, have trouble fulfilling religious obligations in the evening.
The law permits prisoners to wear religious outfits during festivities.
There are chaplains at Bongor, Moundou, Koumra and Pala. Amsinéné has yet to select a new chaplain to replace Father Kaboré, who died in 2014. Other prisons organise services in their central courtyard or in a cell. The Catholic Church has a Commission of Justice and Peace which organises religious activities every Saturday in Bongor and Pala.
The topic of imprisonment often comes up during episcopal conferences. Bishops alert the government on prison conditions. Father Russo, Bishop at Doba, was expelled from the country in 2014. OIP Chad believes that part of the reason for his expulsion was his plea for prisoners, as central powers considered him to be too intrusive.
Religious organizations of different faiths regularly provide services, charitable or psychological support.
The International Committee of the Red Cross regularly visits the most overcrowded prisons. It organised a workday on 26 May 2015 to alert the National Assembly about prison conditions and measures that could be taken to improve them.
OIP-Chad organizes literacy classes for minors in Bongor, Pala and Moundou. The NGO also offers sewing classes for women, painting for men and training on human rights for staff in Bongor.
The Chadian League of Human Rights (LTDH) and the Chadian Association for the Promotion and Defence of Human Rights (ATPDH) are active in some prisons.
The Chadian section of ACAT (Christian Association for the Abolition of Torture) obtained authorisation from the government to visit prisons on 26 October 2015.
Prisoners who work receive a salary. In certain prisons, this money is placed in a shared cashbox managed by the maires and inmates receive part of the money earned on release.
Prison staff demand payment from prisoners from the time they enter prison to avoid being beaten, for a place to sleep or to be taken to the hospital.
The Department of Justice appointed a commissioner, entrusted with investigating, from 19 January to 6 February, the events which led to riots at Amsinéné Prison in November 2014. Prison officers refused to allow certain prisoners to leave their cells which resulted in a mass protest. One prisoner died and several were injured.
The Enquiry Commission advised the Department of Justice to free those who had already exceeded the legal period of pre-trial detention, to organise hearings for those who were awaiting sentencing and to build a block for minors. On 21 September the Minister of Justice ordered the release of 10 people who had exceeded the legal time of pre-trial detention.
The prison administration has very little control over security within the prison. They rely on the “gangs” to manage the establishment. These gangs control communal living (access to food and commerce) and drug trafficking (marijuana, called mbongo and Tramadol). Jobs such as searching the cells or escorting prisoners to the hospital or court are entrusted to the “Colombians” who are members of these gangs.
Prisoners suspected of wanting to escape are considered dangerous and are regularly placed in isolation or chained. This punishment can last between several days and several months. Prisoners are also chained when being taken to court. The prison administration justifies this practice by citing the lack of prison staff.