Authorities in the Gambia are hunting for over 20 inmates who broke out of a jail between Thursday night and the early hours of Friday morning.
The inmates escaped from the remand wing of Jeswang Prison, eight miles outside the capital Banjul. The prison which was established in the 1980s accommodate over 200 inmates, is the second after the colonial-era Mile Two Central Prisons located on the outskirts of Banjul.
The inmates are believed to have escaped from the prison during a heavy downpour of rain which disabled the old the security alarm of the prison.
According to the Dakar based Africa Press Agency (APA), the biggest jailbreak in the country’s history is reported to have happened between Thursday night and the early hours of Friday. None of the prisoners are deemed a high security risk to the general population
A female commissioner of prisons who spoke to APA under the condition of anonymity said close to two dozen prisoners are at large as of Saturday.
The prison commissioner says at least four prison officers who were on duty at the time of the prisoners’ getaway have been arrested in connection with the incident, the second in as many months.
The incident comes over a month after some prisoners escaped from the same penitentiary and are still reportedly at large.
Conditions in Gambian penitentiaries are reportedly still atrocious, almost two years after President Adama Barrow replaced long-term strongman Yahya Jammeh who was accused of gross human rights violations.
A report by the US State Department described prison conditions in the Gambia as harsh and potentially life threatening due to food shortages, gross overcrowding, physical abuse, and inadequate sanitary conditions and medical care.
The report said a UN mission that visited the several prisons in the country has described the conditions as deplorable and expressed concern regarding the high number of pretrial detainees at the prison–approximately 60 percent of the total prison population–and urged an immediate remedy to the backlog of trials.