The United Nations Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS) has said it has refurbished an overcrowded prison located in Tonj North County of Warrap State.
Overcrowding in prisons is common across South Sudan.
In the Warrap Prison in Tonj North County, 250 detainees jostle for space.
Theoretically, the prison has the capacity to house only 150 inmates.
Prison breaks have, over the past years, hampered the ability of law enforcement officers to ensure prisoners serve their sentences fully and can be reintegrated into society.
The mission reported on Sunday that Warrap Prison now has a three-meter perimeter fence that makes the facility more secure.
Ayii Ageu Kuot, paramount chief of Tonj North, said this intervention by the UN Peacekeeping mission means a lot.
“All of us living in the county have suffered from violence and revenge attacks. Knowing that the prison is secure makes us relieved that offenders are safely contained,” he stated.
“UNMISS has always been our partner – they have helped us build county court offices, prison cells, and now this secure perimeter fence. We are happy that justice and the rule of law are being prioritized for the residents of Tonj North,” he added.
Meanwhile, youth representative Arol Deng Majok said: “Most people won’t understand what this fence means to the people of Tonj North. It eases the burden of overstretched prison officers and enables community members to have a good night’s sleep knowing that perpetrators of violence or other criminal acts cannot easily escape,” he avers.
Challenges in the prison still exist – cells are congested; food and nutrition for inmates need special attention; hygiene and sanitation are sub-par, and exercise facilities are non-existent, as pointed out by Nyariak Deng, a women’s representative, as she appealed for separate cells for women offenders.
“Offenders cannot be rehabilitated and reintegrated into society without vocational training. This is a critical aspect of sentencing so that once their term is finished, former detainees can look forward to leading productive and economically empowered civilian lives,” said Ms. Deng.
For his part, Major General Awuoc Kuot Maduot, Greater Tonj Director of Prisons Services, called for continued collaboration with UNMISS on ensuring peace, development, and capacity building, while Piol Buoi, State Minister for Peace Building, assured that all stakeholders will continue efforts to uphold the rule of law.
“We now realize how important it is to have a prison worthy of its name and extend our gratitude to UNMISS and all partners for the upgrades made to this correctional facility. It is a step in the right direction,” stated the minister.