Somalia scores very low for most humanitarian indicators,
suffering from poor governance, protracted internal conflict, underdevelopment,
financial decline, poverty, social and gender discrimination, and environmental
dilapidation. Despite civil war and famine raising its death rate, Somalia’s
high birth rate and a large percentage of
people of reproductive age maintain rapid population growth, with each
generation being larger than the preceding one. More than 60% of Somalia’s
population is younger than 25, and the fertility rate is among the world’s
highest at almost 6 children per woman – a rate that has lessened a little
since the 1970s. The crime rate in Somalia is moderate for small offences like
being robbed or mugged but high for menacing and violent offences such as
assault and armed robbery.

More than 10.2
million men, women and children are in prison globally, and around a third are
awaiting trial. The revised UN Standard Minimum Rules for the Treatment of
Prisoners (the Nelson Mandela Rules) were adopted unanimously in December 2015
by the UN General Assembly and set out the minimum standards for good prison
management, including to ensure the rights of prisoners are respected. They are
known as the Nelson Mandela Rules to honour
the late President of South Africa who spent 27 years in prison and advocated
for the rights of prisoners.


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• Prisoners must be
treated with respect for their inherent dignity and value as human beings.

• Torture or other
ill-treatment is prohibited.

• Prisoners should
be treated according to their needs, without discrimination.

• The purpose of
prison is to protect society and reduce reoffending.

• The safety of
prisoners, staff, service providers and visitors at all times is paramount.

Unfortunately, in
many countries, these rules aren’t
followed. Prisoners needs are rarely treated. The
health risks in prisons are also unacceptable. MRSA, a bacterial infection
whose strains are often resistant to antibiotics, now runs through maximum
security prisons.

then there is solitary confinement. It is hard to tell exactly how many
prisoners are in solitary each year in the United States. Reports from those
who have been held in solitary make clear how inhumane the punishment is. Even
the most optimistic lose hope. Prisoners often have no books or reading the material.
Visits from lawyers and family members, as well as phone calls, are severely
restricted, leaving prisoners feeling totally isolated from everything and

The death this year
of Jerome Murdough at Rikers is such a case. The 56-year-old homeless ex-Marine
suffered from bipolar disorder and schizophrenia. When he was arrested on a misdemeanour charge, he could not make the
$2,500 bail, and so was sent to Rikers, where he was confined in an isolation
cell. Although it was February, the cell was extremely hot. He was found dead
in his cell, and an autopsy released this month by New York’s medical examiner
found that he had died of hyperthermia, with a body temperature of 103 degrees
at the time of his death.

Conditions in most
prisons in Somalia, Somaliland and Puntland, including those administered by Al
Shabaab, are harsh with reports of poor levels of sanitation, overcrowding and
disease; inadequate medical facilities; extensive use of lengthy pretrial
detention and the use of torture and other forms of ill-treatment.

The number of prisoners and detainees throughout the country,
including juvenile and female prisoners, remained unknown. Harsh conditions in
prisons and detention centres throughout
the country included overcrowding, poor sanitation, and lack of health care.
Inadequate food, water, ventilation, and lighting continued to be persistent
problems. Tuberculosis and pneumonia were reportedly widespread. Prisoners
relied on their families and clans, which often paid the costs associated with
detention. In many areas, prisoners
depended on family members and relief agencies for food.

A UN prison assessment found, as of July 2012, the Mogadishu
Central Prison population included 950 individuals, of whom 14 were women and
39 were juveniles. The UN confirmed the separation of women and men but noted separation of adults and
juveniles was not consistent. The UN also concluded prisoners’ living
conditions in the Mogadishu Central Prison fell short of meeting minimum
international and national standards. For example, authorities held 120 inmates
in cells designed for a maximum of 50 persons.

But compared to the 1900s, there have a lot of changes. The
ICRC has been trying their best to make
improve the living standards of Somalian prisons. Prison visits are a core part
of ICRC’s humanitarian role in the world. The aim of this humanitarian activity
is to ensure that persons deprived of their freedom are treated humanely and
with dignity. The first-ever detention visits by the ICRC occurred during World
War I, and decades later its delegates visited Nelson Mandela when the South
African icon was behind bars. The organization currently visits 500,000
detainees a year in more than 90 countries and territories.

The ICRC has been teaching inmates new job skills in the
prison in Bossasso – in the northern Somalia region of Puntland – since 2013.
Such ICRC vocational training programmes are fundamental to the well-being,
rehabilitation and social reintegration of detainees.

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