Disgraceful State of Prisons Upsets Justice Minister

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Justice Minister and Attorney General, Benedict Sannoh, yesterday described as regrettable the appalling conditions at the Monrovia Central Prison (MCP).
Minister Sannoh expressed his embarrassment and dismay when he accompanied Chief Justice Francis S. Korkpor to inspect the Magisterial Sitting Program at the prison compound.
He said the situation has put government in constant danger of breaching the human rights of the inmates and lowering their sense of human dignity.
Cllr. Sannoh said the essence of government is about protecting the rights of its citizens no matter where they may be whether in prison or not.
“If you want to see the extent to which a nation respects its people, visit the prison facility at MCP,” the Justice Minister chided.
“The prison facility,” he said, “is just as it was in 1998 or even worse when I used to go there to represent my client Bai M. Gbala, a politician who was incarcerated for treason by the Charles Taylor-led government.”
He described the present condition of the MCP as “stagnant and regrettable.”
The Magisterial Sitting Program (MSP) is intended to fast track cases of mostly pre-trial detainees who have been in jail for an unspecified period of time. These detainees are said to be responsible for the congestion at the prison.
Organized by the current bench of the Supreme Court, the MSP supports the criminal justice system by addressing critical legal issues such as pre-trial detention.
“When somebody is a pre-trial detainee, it means the accused has not been tried or found guilty and the challenge is that the accused is presumed innocent until found guilty,” he said, adding that it was now left to the government to look at the challenge of whether or not a person should be tried.
Returning to conditions at MCP, Cllr. Sannoh admitted that he had been informed by prison officers about the logistical constraints of transporting inmates from prison to the court or to a hospital and took them to task for not taking the initiative to acquire the vehicles from GSA.
“I am surprised to hear that you don’t have an ambulance to take prisoners to hospital when they are ill, because we communicated with the President and she instructed the General Services Agency to provide one vehicle to you.
“I have the communication in my possession to prove what I am saying, and to hear that you don’t have the vehicle is discouraging.
“You need to speak out because the President has consented to your (recommendation),” he scolded.
He disclosed that government plans to improve prison infrastructures and create more accommodation as well as take measures to decongest prisons in the country and make them more habitable.

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