Rampant overcrowding plagues prisons across the globe, even in the world’s most developed nations.
In Sierra Leone, one of Africa’s poorest countries, and one struggling to emerge from a decade of civil war, prisons are cauldrons of violence and neglect, where death and disease stalk inmates at every turn. In the nation’s capital of Freetown, the crumbling Freetown Central Prison was built to hold 220 adult inmates but houses 1,300, including dozens of children as young as 14 years old.
In 2010, Spanish photographer Fernando Moleres traveled to Sierra Leone determined to document what he describes as “disastrous” conditions at the penitentiary. Inspiration for the trip, he says, came after viewing the work of French photographer Lizzie Sadin, who has spent time capturing prison conditions around the world.
The result of Moleres’ work could not have been more fruitful in a purely professional sense. He has won several international prizes for his work at the notorious Freetown Central Prison, better known as Pademba Road, including a 2012 Lucie Award and a 2011 award from World Press Photo. His series, additionally, has been published by some of Europe’s most prestigious publications.
“It’s very difficult to reflect this neglect through photography,” Moleres tells TIME. “In Sierra Leone, a prisoner is nobody, and a young prisoner is nothing.”