Somalia is. Even the most optimistic lose hope.

Somalia scores very low for most humanitarian indicators,suffering from poor governance, protracted internal conflict, underdevelopment,financial decline, poverty, social and gender discrimination, and environmentaldilapidation. Despite civil war and famine raising its death rate, Somalia’shigh birth rate and a large percentage ofpeople of reproductive age maintain rapid population growth, with eachgeneration being larger than the preceding one. More than 60% of Somalia’spopulation is younger than 25, and the fertility rate is among the world’shighest at almost 6 children per woman – a rate that has lessened a littlesince the 1970s. The crime rate in Somalia is moderate for small offences likebeing robbed or mugged but high for menacing and violent offences such asassault and armed robbery. More than 10.2million men, women and children are in prison globally, and around a third areawaiting trial.

The revised UN Standard Minimum Rules for the Treatment ofPrisoners (the Nelson Mandela Rules) were adopted unanimously in December 2015by the UN General Assembly and set out the minimum standards for good prisonmanagement, including to ensure the rights of prisoners are respected. They areknown as the Nelson Mandela Rules to honourthe late President of South Africa who spent 27 years in prison and advocatedfor the rights of prisoners.Basicprinciples • Prisoners must betreated with respect for their inherent dignity and value as human beings.• Torture or otherill-treatment is prohibited. • Prisoners shouldbe treated according to their needs, without discrimination.

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• The purpose ofprison is to protect society and reduce reoffending. • The safety ofprisoners, staff, service providers and visitors at all times is paramount.Unfortunately, inmany countries, these rules aren’tfollowed. Prisoners needs are rarely treated. Thehealth risks in prisons are also unacceptable.

MRSA, a bacterial infectionwhose strains are often resistant to antibiotics, now runs through maximumsecurity prisons. Andthen there is solitary confinement. It is hard to tell exactly how manyprisoners are in solitary each year in the United States. Reports from thosewho have been held in solitary make clear how inhumane the punishment is.

Eventhe 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 severelyrestricted, leaving prisoners feeling totally isolated from everything andeveryone. The death this yearof Jerome Murdough at Rikers is such a case. The 56-year-old homeless ex-Marinesuffered 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 isolationcell. Although it was February, the cell was extremely hot.

He was found deadin his cell, and an autopsy released this month by New York’s medical examinerfound that he had died of hyperthermia, with a body temperature of 103 degreesat the time of his death.Conditions in mostprisons in Somalia, Somaliland and Puntland, including those administered by AlShabaab, are harsh with reports of poor levels of sanitation, overcrowding anddisease; inadequate medical facilities; extensive use of lengthy pretrialdetention 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 inprisons and detention centres throughoutthe country included overcrowding, poor sanitation, and lack of health care.

Inadequate food, water, ventilation, and lighting continued to be persistentproblems. Tuberculosis and pneumonia were reportedly widespread. Prisonersrelied on their families and clans, which often paid the costs associated withdetention. In many areas, prisonersdepended on family members and relief agencies for food.

A UN prison assessment found, as of July 2012, the MogadishuCentral Prison population included 950 individuals, of whom 14 were women and39 were juveniles. The UN confirmed the separation of women and men but noted separation of adults andjuveniles was not consistent. The UN also concluded prisoners’ livingconditions in the Mogadishu Central Prison fell short of meeting minimuminternational and national standards. For example, authorities held 120 inmatesin cells designed for a maximum of 50 persons.But compared to the 1900s, there have a lot of changes. TheICRC has been trying their best to makeimprove the living standards of Somalian prisons.

Prison visits are a core partof ICRC’s humanitarian role in the world. The aim of this humanitarian activityis to ensure that persons deprived of their freedom are treated humanely andwith dignity. The first-ever detention visits by the ICRC occurred during WorldWar I, and decades later its delegates visited Nelson Mandela when the SouthAfrican icon was behind bars. The organization currently visits 500,000detainees a year in more than 90 countries and territories. The ICRC has been teaching inmates new job skills in theprison 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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