OVER CROWDEDNESS TAKE CENTER SPACE

By: R. Joyclyn Wea

MONROVIA-The Acting County Attorney of Montserrado, Cllr. Boakoi Harvey wants inmates convicted to be transferred to the most famous prison compound known in Grand Gedeh County to reduce overcrowdedness.

Cllr. Harvey said the Judiciary Branch needs to work with the national government to move convicts from the Monrovia Central Prison and other prison facilities to send them to the correction palace in Grand Gedeh.

Of recent, there have been issues of overcrowding of prison facilities across Liberia’s 15 counties, especially the Monrovia Central Prison. On January 4, 2022, the superintendent of the prison facility informed the court and government that the prison facilitates across the country were incapacitated pointing out the Monrovia Central Prison. According to the report, the Monrovia central prison that was constructed to house 374 inmates now has 1,392 inmates, adding that when it is done; prisons around the country will be a bit better than what it is.

Speaking at the formal joint-opening of Criminal Courts “A, B, C, D,& E” across Liberia on Monday, February 14, 2022, , Cllr. Harvey indicated that the completion of the Cheesemanburg Prison facility and transferring of inmates to the facility in Grand Gedeh county will reduce the overcrowdedness of prison facilities across the country.

The Ministry of Justice, he said, will work with judges, magistrates, justices in every aspect of the process to make sure to decongest prison compounds in and out of Monrovia.

“One thing also needs to be done is to complete the Cheesemansburg Prison facility project, noting that some structures have already been built, but “if we can all put together resources and push to the national government, we think we can curve or reduce some of these frictions in the prisons thereby creating better conditions for prisoners.”

Cautioning magistrates, Cllr. Harvey said the prison is not a place for safekeeping, nor a place for resting, adding that some of the matters that go before the court if available, sometimes need human surety or property valid bond, should be accepted to minimize the overcrowdedness of prison because things nowadays in the country are becoming difficult.

He mentioned that it was terrible to hear that prison compounds were so crowded that they went out of food and medicines which is not good for the country and its citizens.

The Acting Montserrado County Atty then encouraged the Judiciary Branch of Government to work with the Ministry of Justice not to only keep the people in the prison, but to also provide some rehabilitation skills so that some of their lives can be transformed and become productive citizens for the use of the country, communities and the society at large.

In order to reduce or avoid prison overcrowdedness in the 15 counties, judges recommend that Police must observe and apply article 21(f) of the 1986 Constitution, the 48-hour to avoid overcrowdedness at the police holding cells.

Delivering the Judge’s charge, Serena Garlawolu also mentioned that Magistrates across the country must observe and take advantage of section 13.5 of the criminal procedural law in order to avoid sending lots of accused persons to jail for bailable offenses.

“Prosecuting attorneys must also take advantage of section 18.1 of the Criminal Procedural law to seek the release of pretrial detainees for lack of sufficient evidence to prosecute,” she recommended.

Similarly, she noted that Public defenders who represent indigent clients must also use or take advantage of section 18.2 of the Criminal Procedure law if the defendant remains in jail for more than two successive terms of court without trial or without being indicted for the indictable offense if no good cause shown.

She further cautions trial judges to apply jail delivery proceedings with sound discretion to release pretrial detainees who have overstayed in prison across the country without being tried or indicted by forcing a hearing or examination of a charge upon which the prisoner is held without bail for offenses other than a capital crime.

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