Daily life

Prison cells are cramped, dark and lack ventilation. A flashlight is necessary to access some prison cells in Nzérékoré during the day. Inmates sleep on mats on the floor and defecate in plastic buckets.

The rate of malnutrition in prisons is now on par with that of the rest of the population thanks to efforts led by the government and the International Committee of the Red Cross since 2013.

The ICRC ensured that meals are delivered twice a day. A sugary gruel constitutes breakfast and 900g of rice with 200g of Guinean sauce (manioc leaves, peanut sauce, potato leaves or soup) makes up a second meal.    

There are few fresh products (meat, peanut sauce, squash, etc.). Prisoners complain about meal quality and quantity. It is possible to buy food inside the prison (ice cream, biscuits, sandwiches or peanut butter) and to receive food from close friends and relatives.   

The medical team of the Conakry prison regularly weighs prisoners and the ICRC in regularly weighs those in other prisons. High-calorie BP100 biscuits are distributed to prisoners who suffer from diet deficiency (three biscuits for moderate cases and six for severe ones). The ICRC has reported embezzlement of BP 100 biscuits by staff in 12 different institutions.   

Budget allocated to the food supply in 2014 was about 6 billion Guinean francs (816,856 USD).

Water shortages are common. Prisoners lack soap to clean themselves, their clothes or their bedding. Only a few institutions have shower facilities. Most prisoners wash using buckets.

Septic tanks do not have drainage channels and waste accumulation leads to diseases such as helmintiasis and malaria. Buckets used as toilets are not regularly emptied.

Inmates are highly vulnerable to disease due to malnutrition, chronic dehydration and lack of hygiene. The most common diseases are skin infections, beriberi (lack of vitamins), malaria, diarrhea, and respiratory diseases. Prisoners who suffer from tuberculosis are not separated from other prisoners, nor monitored correctly. No prevention plans against transmissible diseases (e.g. drainage, mosquito net, insecticidal) are in place.

Only 22 of the 31 institutions have an infirmary for basic medical care. Health care staff members are generally undertrained and poorly paid. The level of violence inside prisons creates difficult working conditions.
Some prisons have an on-duty nurse who will visit once a week or when an inmate is critically ill. In Conakry, the ratio of health care staff to prisoners is 1 to 250.

The budget allocated to the purchase of basic medicines is small. Prisons provide free anti-retroviral and anti-paludism medicine. Families and NGOs supply treatments for other diseases. Prison staff members demand to be paid for distributing these treatments to ill prisoners.   
An agreement was signed in 2014 between the prison administration and the Health Ministry, aiming to provide free hospital checkups to prisoners. Healthcare services are usually private in Guinea.

Prisoners in critical conditions should be transferred to the hospital, however administrative procedures are long and prisons lack transportation. The risk of dying during the commute is high. Hospital fees are invoiced to families, which makes poor prisoners particularly vulnerable.

A limited number of prisoners smoke marijuana. No intravenous drugs are used in prisons as they are too expensive for prisoners to access.

No special care is available for people suffering from mental illness.

The commission has recognized the efforts made by the prison administration following the Ebola crisis to avoid any prisoners becoming infected. However, it has highlighted that the system lacks necessary resources to prevent the spread of Ebola (e.g. gloves, bleach, soap) if an outbreak were to occur.

Some prisons do not have courtyards for inmates and the prisons equipped with courtyards do not always allow prisoners access to them for fear of jailbreaks, such is the case in N’Zérékoré.   

Prisoners are idle. In Conakry, prisoners can spend time in the yard from 10am to 5pm. Opportunities for physical exercise are limited; team sports are only practiced in Conakry when NGOs donate balls.   

No establishment owns a library.

The NGO, Kindian Assistance to Prisoners (KAD) built an oven in the high-security prison of Kindia and runs baking workshops. The baked products are sold outside the prison, and profits used to further develop the project.   

Prisoners have few opportunities to practice an activity while in detention. The ICRC found straw mats distributed to prisons would unexpectedly disappear. They later discovered prisoners were using the mats to braid objects to sell outside the prison.   

Generally prisoners clean the prison and prepare meals, often in return for an extra meal.

There are no literacy or education programs in prisons, even though 90% of prisoners are illiterate. 

The Penitential Administration, in collaboration with the NGOs “SOS Minors” and “ASWAR”, ran literacy programs for minors in the prison of Conakry for several years. The initiative ended in 2014 due to lack of government funding.

Every institution has a place of worship with Muslim and Christian chaplains regularly visiting the prisons.  

Conakry has a mosque and a small church. Christians do not seem to suffer any discrimination from the Muslim majority, despite representing only 11% of the country’s population.

The NGO Même Droits pour Tous (“Same Rights for All” or MDT) offers legal aid to prisoners being illegally detained. MDT sues government officials who commit acts of torture. It also trains magistrates in order to avoid detention of pre-trial prisoners beyond authorized durations.   

The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) intervenes regularly in the Guinean prison system. The ICRC has been involved in numerous programs, including the creation of a dedicated space for female prisoners in Dubréka, and the construction of an infirmary in Fria, where it also restored the prison roof and built a water storage system. The ICRC continues its program against malnutrition; in 2015 it treated 84 prisoners suffering severe malnutrition and 1,391 prisoners for moderate malnutrition. The ICRC also serves as a communication link between prisoners and their families, having sent 99 messages on behalf of prisoners in 2015. 

The Kindian assistance to prisoners (KAD) works toward improving hygiene and health in the high-security prison of Kindia. It trains health agents amongst the prisoners, provides medicine, and ensures nurse visits to the prison once a week. The KAD runs baking workshops and has been running literacy programs in French, English, and Arabic since 2005. The training is open to any prisoner who wishes to join.   

No education programs are available for minors. The national coordination of minors’ assistance, located in Conakry, is managed by the NGO Terre des Hommes - Suisse (“Land of the Men - Switzerland”). It regularly visits prisons and seeks to accelerate judicial procedures. It also promotes alternative sentencing and improvement of detention conditions for minors.

The prison administration allows cash to be used by prisoners. It is possible to buy ice cream, biscuits, sandwiches and peanut butter inside some prisons including Conakry and Kindia.

There is no structure available to prisoners to file complaints.

Jailbreaks are common due to poor infrastructure, lack of staff training, and low staff numbers.

A recent attempted jailbreak occurred 9th November 2015 at Conakry. Prisoners broke down doors and cells before prison guards and police intervened. Both inmates and police were injured and three prisoners died. The incident resulted in major property damage and a number of the prisoners being transferred to another facility.

Visitors and packages are searched at the entrance of each prison. Prisoner cells are also regularly searched for cannabis.   

Common punishments for prisoners include transfer to another prison, isolation and restraint (for violent prisoners). Physical punishments are rare but force is used to control riots.

Prisoners classified as dangerous, namely those who committed political or serious crimes, are held in isolation for up to two weeks before joining the general population. The director of the prison decides who is sent to isolation.