Roumieh prison: Lebanon’s national “trash bag” of humanity


Every time I go inside those walls and those metallic gates, I come out with a heavy heart and head, with shame and disgust of what ever happened to our humanity.
 Yesterday, we did it again. We went visiting the death row inmates in Roumieh prison…
It was cold and rainy outside.
But we were offered toothless smiles and a warm coffee.
Let me stay out of the eternal debate of pro and anti capital punishment here…
Let me just try putting a face on the “criminal” we all seem to fear and hate…
When you put your waste in a neat bag and throw it outside, you forget about it. You naively think it will disappear. You read about global warming, you discuss the others filthy way of living, and how waste is dangerous and smelly, you get nausea when you pass near a landfill, you regret how things are going from bad to worst environmentally.
You won’t even think of sorting your waste, of reducing your water consumption, of going green… You feel no responsibility, your personal luxury always wins over your long-term concern…
It goes the same with what goes on in Roumieh prison…
We throw criminals, offenders, drug dealers/consumers, fraud people, investigated ones…all together in a swamp called Roumieh, where everything is possible among detainees and convicted. Where-as we all know by now- an offender learns how to become a killer or a drug dealer or drug manufacturer.
For months now we’ve been following Roumieh news and crisis. We all agreed it’s inhuman, we all discussed that things ought to change, we even became experts in numbers and stats, we certainly blamed the governments and all politicians. How many times did we repeat:” there are so many innocent people behind the bars?” or “this is an inhuman situation”.
But.we are so busy, we are continuously seeking our daily routine and our small extras, we are in a race with never ending news, we forget that there is a human disaster there.
They’re away, locked in a dump, far from our visual memory.Why should we think of them when no one think of us??
Well, here are some “visuals” for you…some heartbreaking stories…maybe, just maybe, you’ll have a little thought for the meaning of the word “humanity”…
-Many of the inmates have been sentenced to death under the inhuman law named  ”The Killer Is Killed”-where no mitigating circumstances were taken into consideration, back in the 90’s. This law was abolished long years ago, but many of the convicted who should have been out of there, or at least get another different sentence, were left behind. No new trials no nothing. “What should they do if out? better stay inside.”
-One of the oldest convicted, has half a face : since day one of his investigation, he received a kick in the face, was left bleeding for 13 days, until he said: okay, I killed the prophets if you want but I need a doctor. He signed his death sentence. (Is he an exception about torture in Lebanon? we know better). “Yeah, poor thing, but what can we do? tsk tsk tsk.”
– Another one is convicted with a crime that happened while he was abroad. “So? What’s the difference?”
-One killed his best friend while drunk, after fighting over the victim’s wife. This man spends his days crying in regret and remorse for what happened that drunk night. He wrote letters of apologies for the victim’s family. He is incapable of forgiving himself for killing his best friend.” Good for him! let him rot there! No second chance whatsoever. Not for him.”
-One convicted with murder has been visited by his allegedly dead victim!!!! And he’s still there. No one asked, no one tried to make a headline out of it. “Who cares????”
-One schizophrenic young man just got his death penalty sentence along with his under age wife, held in the juvenile prison. Both charged in murdering their house owner while he was trying to rape the wife (according to the young man). He is under heavy medication and lost any sense of time and date or details… “But hey, it’s easier to kill him rather than cure him (he’s just a foreigner)!”
-A man aged 80 years or so, barely standing, trembling and freezing was brought to us, he doesn’t have a clue why he’s here. Inmates told us he’s been here for a month now, detained for drug consumption. I don’t know about you, but I thought consumers should receive medical help. And I don’t know about you again, but at his age, I don’t think Roumieh is a place for him.
-I won’t get into the space issue, the lack of proper health care, the food, the drugs, the human sex toys inside, the gangs… it’s too complicated to discuss in these lines…
-Many of Roumieh prisoners might deserve to be there. But punishment touches every single member of their families. They are treated as criminals as well. Even kids coming for visit. Moms and wives bringing food for the week(because prison’s food is a disaster), have to walk long distances with over 20 kilograms on a bumpy road to reach the hill inside.”They brought it to themselves! some try to introduce drugs and cell phones! let all the rest pay the price! bunch of criminals!!!”
There’s a lot of offenders, of criminals. Don’t get me wrong. I don’t want them to get away with their felony. But I thought justice meant correction, help, rehabilitation, righteousness, protection of society and offenders from primitive revenge. I thought criminals had to work and give their gains in prison to the families of victims and their own.
I thought justice was just.
I thought justice admits when it is wrong.

Justice speaks in our names, it says: “In the name of the people of Lebanon” when sentencing. Well, I don’t agree with many aspects of their justice, so could they please add to their sentence: “except for one citizen”?

via Tanya Awad

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