Prison conditions were harsh and potentially life threatening. Domestic NGOs and the media continued to highlight corruption, overcrowding, and generally poor conditions.
Physical Conditions: As of September the country’s 39 prisons had an estimated 22,000 inmates, with 5,000 incarcerated in Luanda’s Viana Prison, the country’s largest. According to the government, the prison system is designed to hold 18,260 inmates.
The vast majority of prisoners and detainees were between 18 and 31 years of age, with nearly half under 21. The Ministry of Interior oversees prisons, including one all-female prison, which held approximately 700 prisoners and detainees.
According to the Ministry of Interior, authorities did not hold men, women, and juveniles together in prisons. In January local NGOs reported that police detained men, women, and children in the same space for at least 72 hours but acknowledged this incident was isolated and not the official detention policy of the government.
Children under three years of age were permitted to stay with their mothers in prison but may leave the prison to reside with other family members. The Ministry of Interior worked with social assistance to ensure the children’s well-being. The children were entitled to receive dietary supplements, milk, and diapers, and the women’s prison had a day-care center.
There is at least one juvenile detention center in Waco Cungo, Kwanza Sul Province, and it housed inmates between 16 and 21 years of age from Luanda, Bie, and Huambo provinces. No information was available on the overall number of juveniles in custody. There was an interministerial commission to address youth issues. The commission had programs in place to increase employment opportunities for youth, the lack of which was identified as the leading cause of juvenile crime.
Authorities frequently held pretrial detainees with sentenced inmates, and short-term detainees with those serving long-term sentences for violent crimes, especially in provincial prisons.
Prison conditions varied widely between urban and rural areas. Prisons generally provided some medical care, sanitation, potable water, and food, although it was customary for families to bring food to prisoners. The Ministry of Interior reported it spent between 3,000 and 4,500 kwanzas ($29-43) per inmate per day to provide food and services. The director of penitentiary services stated that Luanda had 105 social workers, with 80 of them working full time on social reinsertion initiatives for inmates. A prison hospital in Luanda serviced prisoners from throughout the country with serious medical conditions. The hospital reportedly had more than 100 beds, 10 doctors, and 10 nurses.
Unlike in previous years, there were no credible reports of prison riots during the year. Information on the death, if any, of inmates was not available. Authorities provided prisoners education to lessen recidivism and promote social reintegration. The Ministry of Justice and Human Rights continued its “New Direction, New Opportunities” program in partnership with the Ministry of Interior. The program provided technical training and social education programs to help improve prisoners’ reintegration into society. In some prisons inmates grew food and made bread to sell to police and on the local market, while in other prisons authorities allowed inmates to work in local factories. Limited vocational training was done in a public-private partnership with local industry. The labor was voluntary. In some prisons inmates had access to sports and recreation facilities.
Administration: The Ministry of Interior stated that it was taking steps to improve prison recordkeeping and that efforts continued to transition from a manual recordkeeping system to a computerized database, including biometric data and a link to other agencies, such as police and justice. It claimed that adequate statistics were available in each facility and that authorities were able to locate every prisoner.
The law provides the right for prisoners to practice their religion. The government allowed prisoners to submit complaints to judicial authorities without censorship and request investigation of conditions. The government investigated and monitored prison and detention center conditions.
Some offenders, including violent offenders, reported paying fines and bribes to secure their freedom, but it was unclear how prevalent this practice was. Nonviolent offenders were often fined or paroled as alternatives to incarceration.
An independent office of the ombudsman existed to mediate between an aggrieved public, including prisoners and an offending public office or institution. The office had no decision-making or adjudicative powers, but it helped citizens obtain access to justice and advised government entities on citizen rights. The office also published reports and educated the public about human rights and the role of the ombudsman.
Independent Monitoring: The government permitted visits to prisons by independent local and international human rights observers and foreign diplomats.
A local NGO, Counsel for the Coordination of Human Rights Angola, visited Viana Prison in July and held presentations for inmates and prison guards on the human rights of incarcerated persons. The International Organization for Migration (IOM) regularly visited detention centers in Lunda Norte Province and reported conditions were improving. According to the Ministry of Justice and Human Rights, the ministry performs monthly visits to detention centers with representatives of the Office of the Public Defender, the PGR, and members of the National Assembly to assess prisoners’ living conditions. A spokesperson for a local NGO reported visiting a Luanda prison and described conditions as increasingly humane, although overcrowding remained a serious concern.
Improvements: The Ministry of Interior was working to expand the prison system to address overcrowding and improve living conditions. Five new prisons have been built since 2013. During the year the ministry opened eight new detention centers, including a psychiatric hospital for prisoners with mental disorders.