Liberia: Senate Investigative 'Bad Prison' Conditions

The Plenary of the Liberian Senate has mandated the Committee on Judiciary, Human Rights, Claims, and Petition to investigate the insufficient food and logistics as well as the crowdedness of prison facilities across the country. 

The Senate decision was triggered by a concern raised by River Gee County Senator Johnathan BoyCharles Sogbie during its 17th day sitting early this week. 

Senator Sogbie told his colleagues that some prison compounds erected by the United Nations Mission in Liberia (UNMIL), under its quick impact project to host forty prisoners are currently overcrowded with over 200 inmates.

He attributed the overcrowdedness of some facilities to the transfer of prisoners from Maryland County due to the destruction and burning of its prison compound.

The decision by the Senate comes after the Ministry of Justice admitted in January that the prisons across the country were shut off due to late disbursement of funds -- exposing the terrible conditions that have long existed in the country's jails.

The lack of supplies back then did not just affect all of the country's 15 prisons, it forced some of them to stop taking any new inmates.

While the issue of proper food is important, the country's prison system is also suffering from other chronic problems including overcrowding, poor rehabilitation programs, poor sewage systems, and the old-age problem of limited funding.

For example, the prison budget in Liberia has limited funds for proper accommodation,  medication, and refurbishment for wear and tear.

Most if not all lack medical facilities and proper uniforms for both the inmates and warders. The last batch of prisoner uniforms supplied by the UN was more than 10 years ago.

And among the many prisons across the country, the  Monrovia Central Prison, which overlooks the Atlantic Ocean, suffers the most due to the high crime rate in Montserrado County. 

It has about 1,400 people crammed into a space that was initially built for less than 400.

And it is still taking in more inmates daily - amounting to a "human rights violation" despite the poor infrastructure and the lack of well-maintained facilities.

 The Senate Press release quotes the Senator,  who is also Chairman of the Senate Committee on Information and Broadcasting the crowdedness of inmates in the facility has caused a “spillover” with no space to keep them in the absence of insufficient food and logistical items, which he added could lead to the outburst of national disaster.

He is at the same time calling on the Plenary of the Liberian Senate to take charge of the matter to avoid a national emergency.

In a related development, the Senate has mandated its Committee on Education and Public Administration to conduct a probe into the crisis at Tubman University and report to the plenary on March 17. 

Plenary’s decision was triggered by a concern registered by Maryland County Senator Gbleh-bo Brown bringing to the attention of the Senate, the ongoing strike by the faculty which has paralysis learning.