In Madagascar 92 percent of the population lives on less than $2 per day, and poverty has sharply increased in the past five years (four million more people in poverty than there were in 2008). The longstanding problems encountered by Malagasy society are exacerbated within detention centres such as Antanimora, in the capital city of Antananarivo. Exiguity, lack of hygiene and idleness are the daily life for some 110 minors incarcerated in Antanimora’s juvenile hall. Non-governmental organizations have endeavored to improve the day-to-day life of inmates with the construction of shower-room facilities, toilets, a refectory, daily attention to the medical and educational needs of the children and, most importantly, by supplying food.
Juvenile prisoners, or ‘Zaza Maditra’ – unruly children or bad boys as they are referred to – are aged between twelve and eighteen years old and are held on remand for petty crimes ranging from chicken theft to snatch-and-grab street thieving or fighting. As a result of chronic overcrowding and a dysfunctional criminal justice system it is not unusual for many of the children and young adults, placed on remand, to be released six months later without having stood before a judge at all..
For the others, whose serious offenses come under the jurisdiction of the criminal court, a warrant limited to eight months, which can be renewed repeatedly, is issued by the Central Prosecutor’s office. Automatic detentions of 30 months, known as an OPC (Ordonnance de Prise de Corps) are commonly sought by prosecutors and handed down by the examining magistrate.
I was given an insight into the life for the Zaza Maditra in the juvenile prison. In the prison yard and dormitories of Antanimora I listened to the testimonies of the young men being held there, I witnessed the tough conditions they live in and I was moved by their dreams for a better life.
“My dream is to stop stealing… and visit the world… go to America.”
Antanimora prison, Antananarivo, Madagascar
“Life’s hard out here. I don’t attend classes anymore, I’m not motivated. Anyhow, nobody gives sixth-form classes in jail.”
Dormitory. The juvenile detention center has two dormitories, they can each accommodate forty inmates.
Christianity is prominent in Malagasy society, as it is in jail.
Prayer sessions are held several times a week in juvenile hall.
The courtyard of Antanimora’s juvenile hall.
“In jail I pray a lot. I like it. It makes me change, I ask anything to God… sometimes he listens to me. I want to break away from my behaviour, no more curses, no more theft.”
Courtyard of Antanimora’s juvenile hall.
random space may symbolically become a space of freedom. Here a classroom becomes a place to test gravity. The blackboard a platform off which to try out backward somersaults.
There are four classrooms in the juvenile detention centre.
Classes take place either in the morning or afternoon. There are two different levels designed to teach literacy or secondary school level education. Course are normally mandatory but, in practice, it’s up to each person to attend.
Entrance of the juvenile detention center. A young mother waits for authorization to deliver food to her son.
The kitchen in an outside courtyard. To suppliment the basic meals made in the jail some young people receive food supplys from their families. Often these are shared with those not as fortunate, in exchange for being allowed to help prepare meals.
The wardens’ station at the entrance of the juvenile detention center, Madagascar, Tananarive.
A video session in the refectory. After lunch, the young prisoners have the opportunity to watch movies.
“The harshest part here is that you can’t smoke…and the brawls. When i get out I will be a seller. My dream, it’s to become an auto mechanic.”
“It’s mayhem in here…you have to be on guard all the time… never at peace.”
Common prayer and hymn of praise.
At the end of religious classes it is not uncommon that some foodstuffs are handed out. Sometimes only those that attended the worship receive them, at other times they are divided between the rest of the prison population.
From November till April, is ‘the cooling season’. Rain shower are almost daily, often in late afternoon. The rain provides an opportunity to wash and clean one’s clothes. Up until May 2013 the prison had no shower facilities for the inmates.
An afternoon in one of the two dormitories.
“At this time I have no dreams, but I ask for forgiveness for all I have done… I think of about it all the time and I never want to come back here.”
Members of a church preach the gospel to the minors in the prison.
Minors gathered in the courtyard during a visit of religious figures. Sermons and songs accompany the visit.
A football match in the courtyard of the juvenile detention center.
5pm, back to the dorms.
The dormitory chief leads his dorm-mates. The inmates are locked up in their dorms each night from 5 pm until 6 am. The dormitory chiefs are young inmates appointed by the Grandir Dignement Association and the prison administration. Their role is to enforce the rules and discipline. The lights stay on all night in both dormitories.