Contributor(s)Observatoire ivoirien des droits de l'homme / Frédéric Le Marcis / Prison Insider

Living conditions

Prisoners are accommodated in single cells


Inmates are not housed in individual cells. The situation varies considerably from one prison to another and even within a single prison, depending on the way space is used.

The cells can house two people in 9 m², and up to 60 in the dormitories. For example, the cells at the jail in Abidjan (MACA) house anywhere from 10 to 70 people in the main buildings.

Prisoners sleep on

  • a floor mattress
  • the ground

The cells are stripped of all furnishings. Women are given a mattress and men receive a mat. The prisoners sleep on wooden or cement benches. Some prisoners manage to acquire a mattress or mattress. Beds are sometimes available in the cells reserved for privileged prisoners.

All the prisoners are provided with bedding


Cells often do not have windows.

Prisoners can smoke

in their cell/ dormitory

Grand Bassam prison holds 14 dormitories. Two are equipped with toilets. Group cells house from six to eight people.

The quality of the cell depends on the prisoner’s status. The richest prisoners occupy more comfortable quarters termed “for the assimilated”1. Notably, these include individual showers and toilets. The prisoners may furnish and equip their own cell.

Detainees can change cells by paying a tax called the “baygon.” It is set at 300 CFA francs (0.46 euros) per week, which contributes to general costs and maintenance. It pays the “valet” who is in charge of the cell’s upkeep.

  1. he term “assimilated” is a colonial heritage. It refers to prisoners assimilated to European civilians. These are civil servants, private executives, politicians…. 

Prisoners have access to water

outside their cell/ dormitory

Cells are not equipped with a spigot.

Types of sanitary facilities

  • latrines
  • sanitary buckets

The great majority of prisons outside the MACA have no latrines. Prisoners relieve themselves in cans which they keep in their cell at night.

Sanitary facilities are clean, adequate and accessible


The toilets have no doors and offer no privacy.

The prison service provides personal hygiene products free of charge


Hygiene products are distributed by the administration, but in very small quantities. Soap provided by the International Committee for the Red Cross is intercepted by the guards and then sold to prisoners.

The prison service provides cleaning products free of charge


Beddings are refreshed

no bedding provided

Prisoners’ family and friends must provide clothing, bed linens and towels.

The prison administration does not provide inmates with basic clothing.

Prisoners are responsible for keeping the common areas clean

The cells are dilapidated and overcrowded, with the exception of the assimilated cells. There are no taps in the toilets. They have no doors and offer no privacy. The lack of running water, the overcrowding of personal belongings and overcrowding in the cells maintain a constant foul-smelling odour. The lack of beds and mattresses forces some inmates to sleep on the floor.

Drinking water is free and available in all areas of the facilities


Detainees do not have access to drinking water in their cells, they must fetch it every morning from the courtyard.

Number of meals per day


The administration must serve two meals per day. In practice, only one meal is distributed.

Daily cost of meals per prisoner


The budget allocated for food varies widely from one prison to the next.

Food services are managed by

the administration

Two prison guards and several prisoners are in charge of the kitchen. The former create the menu, organise the distribution of food and maintain the kitchen register

Religious communities, especially Muslim, Catholic, and Protestant groups, provide important support for prisoners. People attending services can obtain bread or canned sardines.

The prison service provides food that respects special dietary needs


Religious practices and certain medical needs are taken into account in food distribution.

Prisoners can buy food products


Prisoners can have access to a refrigerator


Prisoners are allowed to cook in their cells or in a shared space


Prisoners are allowed to receive food parcels


The prisoners can receive food from their family and friends or religious communities.

Part of the prisoner's food is produced by the prison

in some establishments

Some institutions are planting vegetable gardens.

The NGO Prisoners Without Borders is developing, with funding from the European Union, market gardening for the benefit of the detainees’ food supply. In practice, the products grown often escape to prisoners.