Year2017
Contributor(s)Prison Insider

Contact with the outside world

Theoretically, visits to inmates are free. They usually last 20 minutes. Their duration can be extended for 100 CFA francs (15 cents).

Some prisons do not have visiting rooms. Prison administration offices are used for this purpose.

Visitors must pay 1500 CFA francs (2 euros), including 500 (76 cents) to the warden, to visit Yaoundé Central Prison. Visiting rooms consist of “half a dozen compartments without windows” (in French).

Visitors can bring anything into the prison if they negotiate for permission. Most often, they bring food.

People are not always incarcerated in a prison close to where their family lives. Family members must, therefore, pay for transportation and lose a day’s work to visit their incarcerated relative.

No telephone line is made available to prisoners by the prison administration.

Mobile phones are prohibited in detention. However, some prisoners have a mobile phone. They are able to make calls or go on the Internet thanks to 4G.

Inmates send mail, sometimes illegally. They sometimes pass notes. When inmates leave prison, often to go to court, they use this opportunity to share information.

Prisoners sentenced to death may be eligible for a presidential pardon.

Sentences can be commuted: the death penalty can be commuted to a life sentence. In some cases, a life sentence may be changed to a 20-year prison sentence.

Inmates can obtain a temporary release either for a fee or through negotiation with the authorities.

Inmates are entitled to a lawyer. Legal aid amounts are generally very low, including for minors (in French).

Public defenders are not always conscientious in their work. They do not systematically communicate information to inmates.

In 2015, the European Union was in the process of implementing a legal aid program. It was discontinued shortly after its launch in 2016.

Most prisoners are not informed about the progress of their court proceedings. Their prison records are not updated and only contain the warrant for pretrial detention.

Cameroon signed the Optional Protocol to the Convention against Torture (OPCAT) on 15 December 2009 but has not ratified it and is not a State Party. Cameroon does not have a National Preventive Mechanism.

Many NGOs intervene in detention (see section External Actors). Some are fake NGOs, who obtain funding to intervene but do not follow through.