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Prison: The Other Hell (True Prisons – Part 4)

by Harshi C. Perera

(October 30, Colombo, Sri Lanka Guardian) Mohamed Nowsan is a 28 year old father of one. On the 4th of September 2010, the Kataragama police arrested Mohamed on fabricated charges for a crime he did not commit. The police subsequently beat him and he was sent in Tengalle prison for 28 days.

Mohamed was incarcerated in Ward 3 of Tengalle prison, where he said overcrowding was a very serious issue. His cell had 37 pre-trial detainees in a space that is only meant to hold 20. All 37 pre-trial detainees were forced to share one toilet, had no proper arrangement to keep clothes and found it impossible to sleep properly without being woken up by the others. The entire group of pre-trial detainees was provided 8 to 10 buckets of water with which to bathe and if anyone overused the water they were beaten or verbally abused by the guards.

After 3 days in Ward 3, Mohamed was transferred to Ward 7 where the overcrowding was just as bad and the pre-trial detainees equally mistreated.

In addition to the overcrowding, there were a considerable number of sick pre-trial detainees that go for weeks without medical attention. Some of the pre-trial detainees smoked and used drugs like heroin at night, which made law-abiding citizens like Mohamed uncomfortable and scared in their presence.

At mealtime, every pre-trial detainee was forced to wait in a long queue and if they were seen to misbehave by the guards they faced physical or mental torture. The other pre-trial detainees in Wards 3 and 7 explained to Mohamed that the officers attending to mark the register had beaten them. Worse still, if one pre-trial detainee harassed or fought with another, the victim was blamed just as much as the perpetrator and the guards sided with the more senior pre-trial detainee to further abuse the victim.

After recounting his mistreatment in Tengalle prison, Mohamed said that the only place worse would be hell itself.
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