In September 2016, the prison population comprised 9,544 inmates. Of these, 46.5% were in pre-trial imprisonment.
The occupancy level was estimated at 117.3% in November 2014. Overpopulation affects prisons differently: Rebeuss (Dakar) holds double the number of inmates envisaged by its operational capacity.
Of the total number of prisoners, 48% are concentrated in the Dakar area. The Thiès-Diourbel prison area, the second largest in the country, holds 21% of the country’s prison population. Next come the prison areas of Kaolack-Tamba-Kaffrine (10%), Saint-Louis-Matam (8%), Tambacounda- Kédougou (7%) and Ziguinchor-Sédhiou-Kolda (6%).
Since the beginning of the twenty-first century, the prison population (then estimated at 4,891 prisoners) has been progressively increasing. A law criminalizing the possession and sale of cannabis, which was passed in 2007, has contributed to accelerating this phenomenon of prison population growth. In 2016, the rate of incarceration was 61 prisoners per 100,000 inhabitants.
The prison administration publishes annual statistics in its activity report. This year’s report is not made public and it is very difficult to access it. Digitized registers are not rigorously kept, due to a lack of staff and recurrent power cuts.
A report published by the West Africa Regional Office of the United Nations High Commission for Human Rights (Bureau régional pour l’Afrique de l’Ouest du Haut-Commissariat des Nations unies aux droits de l’homme, HCDH) and the Association of Senegalese Women Lawyers (Association des juristes sénégalaises, AJS) reported 283 women prisoners in July 2015 (3.28% of the prison population). Of these, 46 were foreign nationals.
72% of these women are remand prisoners. There is no separation between remand prisoners and those who have already been sentenced.
The Liberté VI remand prison for women and the Rufisque remand prison for women are the country’s two institutions exclusively for women. The 11 others hold both men and women. Half the female prison population is distributed between five institutions (Liberté VI, Rufisque, Thiès, Kaolack, and Tambacounda).
Some buildings are in a very poor state. In May 2014, the HCDH and AJS delegation noted that the women’s quarters in Kaolack remand prison had collapsed. The women had been evacuated by the director a few weeks earlier and housed in the juvenile quarters, despite the fact that this is prohibited by law. The director defended his actions to the delegation, stating that he had no choice: “What would you have me do? Put the women in with the men?” was his response to the delegation.
The separation of women and men is maintained in the institutions that hold both sexes. The HCDH and AJS report denounced the fact that at Tambacounda prison for remand prisoners, monitoring of the women’s quarters is carried out by male staff. Female juveniles share cells with adults in the majority of women’s prisons. Liberté VI is the only prison which has a female juveniles’ section.
Women prisoners suffer discrimination concerning access to training and leisure. In prisons holding men and women, women’s access to recreation areas, such as the gym and workshops, is limited. The HCDH and AJS report found a very small number of women participating in leisure activities: art crochet (ten of 152 inmates), sport (three of 152); fencing, outside the prison under prison guard (one of 152); and exercise (one of 152). As for vocational training activities, only six of 152 inmates have taken part (processing cereals, cooking, or hairdressing).
Pregnant women are isolated, in separate quarters, for two months before and after giving birth. As at July 2015, 11 children were imprisoned with their mothers. They can remain with them up to the age of three. Young children do not benefit from an appropriate diet nor any accompanying measures designed for them; no play area or childcare is provided.
Drug trafficking is the most common reason for imprisonment (31%), followed by infanticide (16%), theft (11%), murder (7%), and abortion (3%). 42% of women imprisoned for drug trafficking are foreigners and were arrested while transporting illegal substances. The HCDH and AJS report asserts that the crime of infanticide “is often the consequence of pre-existing situations of discrimination or violence, particularly pregnancies resulting from acts of sexual violence (rape, incest or paedophilia)”. Voluntary termination of pregnancy is punishable by law and liable to a term of imprisonment of five years. The HCDH and the AJS consider that “as such, infanticide becomes a recurring charge, and there is a direct correlation between its scale and the fact that poor women and girls find it impossible to get access to an abortion”. Prostitution, although legal in Senegal, is punishable by imprisonment if the person does not have a health record or is not on the administrative register.
Children can be jailed from the age of 13 and fall under the jurisdiction of the juvenile courts until the age of 18.
The National Observatory of Places of Deprivation of Liberty (Observateur national des lieux de privation de liberté) counted 442 juveniles in detention in September 2016.
Institutions for juveniles are under the supervision of the Ministry of Justice. Senegal has two institutions exclusively for juveniles. In adult prisons, specific sections are reserved for them. In some regional prisons such as Kaolack, Kédougo or Saint-Louis, juveniles are not always held separately from adult prisoners. Young female juveniles are not separated from adults in institutions for women.
Male and female juveniles held at the Thiès remand prison take part in fencing lessons twice a week. The experience, intended to reinforce a sense of responsibility in the young people who take part, has been praised by journalist Nils Tavernier in a documentary1. The documentary filmmaker declared in an interview that “the guards are unanimous: practising fencing has had a positive effect on socialization and mutual respect within the group. In detention, young people physically hit each other less, which makes the guards’ work easier”2.
“Aemo” (Action educative en milieu ouvert) institutions are correctional facilities for juveniles placed under an open regime. They are linked to regional prosecutorial authorities and run by magistrates. Juveniles are supported by social workers who run training sessions and offer counselling.
“Sénégal : l’escrime pour les juveniles en prison, une réinsertion à fleurets mouchetés (Senegal: fencing for juveniles in prison, reinsertion by rubber-tipped foils)” in Jeune Afrique, 30/11/2015 (only in French) ↩
Foreigners in detention represent 8.75% of Senegal’s prison population, according to the 2015 report by the Directorate of Prison Administration (DAP).
The most commonly represented nationalities are those of neighbouring countries: Guinea, Mali, Ivory Coast, Ghana, and Nigeria.
Foreigners are most often arrested for drug trafficking, procuring, or fraud. Illegal residence is a criminal offence, but foreign prisoners arrested for this reason are in the minority.
The law, which is very rarely applied, provides for the assistance of an interpreter and an appointed solicitor if the individual does not have sufficient financial resources to conduct his or her defence.
Foreign prisoners constitute a particularly vulnerable population, due to their lack of command of the language and their social isolation.
International telephone calls are not permitted by the prison administration.
Prisoners may not send letters in a language that staff do not understand.
The majority of foreign prisoners live in considerable material insecurity because close relatives are responsible for bringing food, clothing, or money.
Homosexuality is not explicitly mentioned in Senegal’s Penal Code. The law punishes “acts against nature” and indecent assaults. These offences fall within criminal jurisdiction and are punishable by terms of one to five years’ imprisonment and fines of CFA100,000 to 1.5 million (USD173 to 2,600).
Amnesty International’s annual report notes that at least 22 individuals, including three women, were arrested in 2015 because of their sexual orientation.
On 21 July, 2015, the police entered an apartment in Guediawaye and arrested seven men, after the mother of one of them had reported them to the authorities. They were then prosecuted for “acts against nature”. The prosecution was marred by irregularities. No witnesses were called by the prosecution, and the documents offered no details about the incriminated acts. The prosecutor claimed to have found incriminating text messages on the telephones of the accused, but these were not produced during the hearing. In August 2015, the seven men were sentenced by the Dakar court to two years’ imprisonment, 18 months of which were suspended. Six of the men, who were transferred to Diourbel prison, encountered difficulties in receiving visits from their relatives who could bring them food and medicine.
On 24 December, 2015, twelve men were arrested at Kaolack for the same offence. They spent five days in police custody and were subjected to ill-treatment, physical assault, and verbal abuse.