Reactions from government officials in the know have confirmed rumors out of Voinjama, the capital of Lofa County, that a major jail-break did occur Wednesday, December 18.
The report added that the prisoners broke jail early Wednesday morning when they (prisoners) forced open the steel doors, high-tailed it (made a quick exit) through the gates, hit the bushes, and scattered in various directions.
According to Lofa County Attorney Nuta B. Sumo, 40 notorious, convicted prisoners had laid the foundation for the jail-break by infiltrating the ranks of pre-trial detainees in the local jail.
Attorney Sumo disclosed that three of the escaped prisoners have been arrested by joint security officers in Voinjama City.
He also reported that 37 of the escaped prisoners were on the run and could cause harm to people they come in contact with in the bushes.
Asked what may have caused the current jail-break, Attorney Sumo answered: “The lack of critical equipment including vehicles.”
Asked about the number of prisoners held at the Voinjama Correction Palace, Attorney Sumo could not give the exact figure; instead, he spoke about serious challenges at the prison center.
Such challenges and constraints include deplorable roads, electricity and acute water shortage amongst others, Attorney Sumo said.
He added that on most occasions, the prison Superintendent and support staff use Chinese flash lights for visibility at the Voinjama Correction Palace in Lofa County at night.
At the moment, Attorney Sumo said, the Lofa Police Detachment has only one vehicle that goes only so far in covering the seven administrative districts of Lofa County.
“I’m really frustrated working under such difficult circumstances,” he lamented.
In a related development, sources contacted by the Daily Observer disclosed that the Voinjama Prison staff has again and again complained of over crowdedness and other challenges.
“Under our laws, Attorney Sumo explained, “pretrial detainees cannot be kept in jail indefinitely.”
The lawyer pointed out that a majority of the escaped prisoners are convicted murderers, rapists, and hardened criminals, that had wreaked havoc in the community
We later found out that 61 prisoners are currently being held at the Voinjama Central Prison, charged for various offenses.
It may be recalled that in 2008-2009, a similar jail-break took place and many of the convicted and pretrial detainees escaped into neighboring Sierra Leone and Guinea.