Contributor(s)International Prison Observatory - Chadian section

The penitentiary system

Chad has 51 penal institutions, all administrated by the State. According to PRAJUST Programme d’appui à la réforme de la justice au Tchad (Support Programme for Justice Reform in Chad), the smallest establishment is Bitkine (600m²) and the largest is Am-Timan (5,767 m²).   

By law, there are four categories of penal institutions: high security prisons for sentences longer than five years, escapees and re-offenders; jails for defendants and those sentenced to less than five years; correction houses for minors; and penal camps for sentences less than a year. In practice, these categories are not respected.   

The majority of jails date from the colonial period and are in a deplorable state. Walls are built of brick, cement and sometimes mud. They are deteriorating and surrounded by security fences. There are numerous prison breaks.   

The former central prison of N’Djamena was destroyed in 2011. An old garrison of the National Police Station, located in Amsinéné was renovated in 2013 to form a new jail.   

Four new jails were opened between 2014 and 2015 in Fada, Koumra, Bongor and Kelo. They were built according to European norms. The construction is financed by PRAJUST.

Members of Prison Administration and Social Rehabilitation are attached to the Ministry of Justice. The law is unclear regarding the recruitment, training, remuneration methods and disciplinary measures for staff.   

Each prison is directed by an establishment director. By law there are four categories of employees: administrators, inspectors, administrative officers and guards. In practice, these positions are filled by the Gendarmerie (national police force).   

The National and Nomadic Guard of Chad is legally responsible for security maintenance within the prisons. In reality, the responsibility is shared with the Gendarmerie. Tension is common between the two groups who do not fall under the same command. Insufficient staffing and the lack of suitable training and coordination are obvious. Corruption and the outdated buildings contribute to prison breaks, riots and human rights violations.   

PRAJUST, created in 2003 and financed by the European Union, aims to help modernise the justice system and better train judicial authorities about human rights.   

Daily life is managed by the Gendarmerie and by prisoner gangs (called mairies, “councils” in English). The members of these gangs (called “Colombians”) do not carry weapons. There is a clear social division within the prisons. Certain prisoners bribe guards for more comfortable sleeping arrangements, more visits, the right to own a radio, a television or a cell phone, to conduct business and sometimes to leave their cells at night. Poor prisoners are forced by staff to cook, do the laundry or supply water in exchange for food.