LE. Previously, there was a section for minors in each of the 13 civil prisons. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the State has now crammed all minors into the sections for minors in just four prisons, with empty cells being used for solitary confinement.
The living conditions are truly bleak. The detention centres desperately lack adequate infrastructure, including mattresses and toilets. The hygiene in these centres is deplorable and there is little ventilation and minimal access to health care. The infirmaries in the juvenile sections lack medical personnel, medications and supplies. Children often come down with skin conditions and infectious diseases and their care is inconsistent. Some children do not have access to toilets and instead must use pots next to where they eat and sleep. They do not receive the educational and activity programmes provided by the prison administration. NGOs used to fulfil this role before the pandemic, however, this is no longer the case as visits have been suspended.
In December 2020, the brigade for minors, the only detention centre for minors in Lomé, was replaced with a Centre for Access to Rights and Justice for Children (*centre d’accès aux droits et à la justice pour les enfants, CADJE). This institution, which has thirteen (13) dormitories all furnished with mattresses and toilets, is closer to meeting international standards in terms of infrastructure. However, there remains a lack of funding and staff, especially guards. Another centre for minors opened on 8 October 2020 in the northern part of the country (Kara), but it is not yet operational.
Even though the construction of these centres is an improvement, the reality of the detention conditions of children remains unchanged. The centres lack funds, supplies, and technical resources and do not have specifically defined duties.
Homeless children can sometimes end up in detention. As there are no specific institutions to accommodate children living on the streets, the Police tend to “pick them up” and take them to prison while they find their parents. They are mixed in with minors suspected of committing a crime or a misdemeanour. Children born in prison also live in deplorable conditions. They do not receive any specific protection or favourable treatment. They live with their mothers in the same living conditions as the other prisoners in the women’s sections. There also doesn’t seem to be any specific protection or treatment for incarcerated mothers who give birth while in prison, such as alternatives to detention, for example.