In ‘South Beach’, High Rate of Pretrial Detainees

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Despite efforts to decongest the Monrovia Central Prison, Chief Justice Francis Korkpor has said that the number of pretrial prisoners there has increased and now comprises 84 percent of the prison’s population.
‘Pretrial detainee’ is a term applied to a defendant who is held prior to his/her trial on criminal charges because no bail is posted or he or she is denied a pre-trial release.
Chief Justice Korkpor said the situation is alarming and requires urgent attention to address the situation of this category of detainees.
“This figure is unacceptable to our criminal justice system and those detained have had their rights violated,” the chief justice who once served as an acting prison supervisor, declared.
The Chief Justice, who is also a human rights activist, sounded the alarm when he toured facilities of the Magisterial Sitting Program hosted at the Monrovia Central Prison in Monrovia.
The program, he said, is intended to fast track “minor criminal offences,” which would decongest the prison facility.
Prison facilities should be a place where people serving long term sentences are taught shoe making, agriculture and other trades so that when they are released into society they are already reformed, the chief justice pointed out.
“It is also the intent that prisoners not go back to their criminal activities after serving their terms. I am saying this because I want you to know that I am aware of what goes on in here as a human rights activist,” the former prison supervisor informed correction officers.
“The magisterial program should be allowed to function efficiently and effectively to resolve the problem of pretrial detainees. It is to make sure that some people are not kept in jail unnecessarily,” he clarified.
He lamented the deplorable conditions at the Monrovia Central Prison and said there is a need to relocate it to suite modern day realities.
The Chief Justice said prison guards need to use “simple tracking devices,” to record the number of inmates each month.
He pointed to a register, and explained that it would help start the process of developing an indicator for pretrial detention by raising questions with judges and magistrates, about the long term incarceration of people.
“Sometimes, you as a correction officer, notice that a person has been sent to jail for a long time, beyond the statutory period. You can make the list and put it before the magistrate or judge, reminding him that he has sent somebody to jail without trial for a long time. It is clear under the law,” the Chief Justice advised.
He said Section 18.2 of the criminal law provides that a person accused of a minor criminal activity should not be detained for more than 14 days.
“The law is clear for petty criminal activity. You should not be detained for more than 14 days. After that a detainee should be released and then, if the Ministry of Justice has a case against him, and they have the evidence, the person can be re-arrested.”
According to him, while serving as rights activist at times he would file an action in court, if he was aware that a person had been kept in jail without trial for a long period of time.


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