Chief Justice Francis Korkpor has admitted that the overcrowded prison in Liberia is due to corruption among magistrates who are abusing the country’s cash bond requirement.
Appearing frustrated about the unexpected behavior of magistrates, Chief Justice Korkpor openly confessed that magistrates were involved with massive corruption, making a particular reference to the handling of the criminal appearance bond.
According to him, graduates of the professional magistrate-training program used the cash bond requirement to enrich themselves, which has resulted in overcrowding of prison facilities, as most people accused do not have the money.
“We have received several complaints that the magistrates, especially those trained by Judicial Institute, were involved with taking cash bond to release an accused. This must stop it is corruption,” Justice Korkpor openly warned during the opening of the joint opening of Criminal Courts A, B, C, D, and E, at the Temple of Justice recently.
The magistrate program, which is sponsor by the US government to help strengthen the Judicial Branch is a 15-month program, offered at the James A.A. Pierre Judicial Institute designed to prepare college graduates to serve as magistrates and to administer justice at Liberia’s courts of the first instance.
It is supported through a grant from the U.S. Agency for International Development. Before the commencement of the magistrate’s program, there have been reports of corruption within the justice system, even on the issue of cash bonds. However, with the latest development, if not by lip service, it will help to decongest the prison facilities throughout the country.
Meanwhile, the Chief Justice has warned that if they receive any more complaints from anyone regarding the issue of cash bonds, the individual magistrates would be forwarded to the Judicial Inquiry Commission (JIC). The new judicial law gives the President the legal authority to appoint and remove magistrates without going through an impeachment process.
Chief Justice furthers that there is no provision within the law that requires a magistrate to take cash bonds from defendants.
“You are wrongfully taking bond fees sending people to jail because they don’t have money to pay for a bond,” Justice Korkpor said. “If found liable by the JIC, I am going to send you to the President to remove you as magistrates.”