Sixty prisoners share a 25-square-meter cell and are locked in for 16 hours at a stretch with a single bucket for a toilet. There are no beds or mattresses, and scabies and other infectious diseases are rife. Pademba Road Prison, in Freetown, Sierra Leone was built to accommodate around 300 prisoners, but now holds more than 1,100, including many juveniles. According to Sierra Leonean law, children under 17 should not be imprisoned with adults, but poor documentation means that it is not always easy to prove age. Youths can remain in jail for years while awaiting trial, as in some cases age must be proven before a trial can commence. Every day, dozens of juveniles on remand are taken to court, but many return without a decision being made and have to return on numerous occasions before a judgment can be reached. Image © Fernando Moleres, Panos Pictures / 2012 Tim Hetherington Grant.
Organised by World Press Photo and Human Rights Watch, the Tim Hetherington Grant was created in 2011 to celebrate the legacy of the photojournalist and filmmaker killed in Libya less than two years ago.
The annual grant of €20,000 goes to support a photographer in completing an existing project on a human rights theme, and this year, it was awarded to Spanish photographer Fernando Moleres for his work "Waiting for an opportunity".
The work, which was shown at Visa pour l'Image in 2011, explores the harsh conditions minors face while incarcerated in the adult prison of Pademba, Sierra Leone, and follows them in their struggle to adjust to life outside after release from prison. "Many juveniles wait for years for their trial, without access to legal assistance; while their families have often rejected them and will not welcome them back home," says World Press Photo in a statement.
Speaking to BJP in 2011, Moleres explained that the issue had, at that point, failed to attract the attention of NGOs and journalists. "I think the main reason is that NGOs prefer to work on projects that relate to young people and women - on health issues. It's a lot more difficult for them to pay attention to people caught in the prison system. It's difficult to find support from the public for a widespread campaign," he said. "For many people, when they see someone in prison, they think that person deserves to be there - because they did something bad, we think about violence, drugs, etc. It's easier to get public support to help starving kids or pregnant women."
He added: "But, people don't realise the extent of the injustice present in these prisons. They are forgotten by everyone. When I was asking for help to NGOs - the Red Cross, Médecins du Monde, etc. - no one, absolutely no one wanted to help me. Of course, I was there on my own initiative; so I didn't have a project they could study, send to Europe for the green light, which would then be rescinded... There's so much bureaucracy that in these cases it would just not be possible." [Read the full interview on BJP]
Moleres' work was selected from among 176 applications by a jury that included photographer Marcus Bleasdale; Whitney Johnson of The New Yorker; filmmaker James Brabazon; Carroll Bogert of Human Rights Watch; and Michiel Munneke of World Press Photo.
In a statement, Bleasdale says: "For me, just as for Tim, photography is a starting point, the start of a journey and you try to work out what you can do with that photo to affect change, to inform and to educate. This project has that vision."
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