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Ellen releases dozens of prisoners

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The New Dawn Liberia The New Dawn LiberiaApproximately 32 inmates in various prisons across Liberia have been granted clemency by President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf, following recommendation from authorities.

President Sirleaf granted the prisoners political clemency, most of whom had served much of their sentences for crimes committed, including rape, manslaughter, statutory rape, incest, murder, burglary, armed robbery and criminal facilitation.

Liberia’s Justice Minister Benedict Sannoh, additionally recommended the names of other seven inmates for release, but said they required “in-depth post-sentence investigation, secure mental and psychosocial service and reintegration exercise before release.”

They were also in prison for crimes including rape, attempted kidnapping, murder and drug related charges.

Meanwhile, President Sirleaf has shared Christmas gifts with correction officers, providing US$15,000 in appreciation of their work; US$1,000 to kitchen staff at the Monrovia Central Prison and US$500 to nurses at the prison.

The Liberian leader clarified that Ebola funds are not directed towards correctional officers, in response to one of the officers’ concern that there was corruption within the “law enforcement body” of the country.

Addressing President Sirleaf at the Monrovia Central Prison Compound on Tuesday, 23 December, Mr. Kolako K. Jackson lamented that as part of their work, they “interact with hundreds of inmates along with their relatives and loved ones,” coming in contact with them through bodily search.
Yet he complained, “Nothing is being done” in terms of correctional officers receiving part of the Ebola funds.

But in response, President Sirleaf said the Ebola funds are meant for people who are at risk- including health workers, nurses and doctors, and not security, telling Officer Jackson that “somebody gave you the wrong information.”

Having got the clarity from the President, Officer Jackson, who spoke on behalf of his colleagues, also told the President of transportation challenges facing them, while also complaining that government is not paying officers at the Bureau of Corrections based on qualification, as degree holders and high school graduates are allegedly paid on a flat rate.

Finally, he said 69 Armed Forces of Liberia or AFL- trained correctional officers have allegedly worked for almost 90 days without salaries, and they are not captured in any budget. Meanwhile, Justice Minister Sannoh has welcomed President Sirleaf’s clarification on the Ebola benefit, which he said has been a major problem among the officers, on grounds that there were accusations that money was given to the Ministry and they were not receiving it.

Minister Sannoh however said he is talking with the Prison Superintendent, Mr. Adana S. Paye, to see what can be done about all the other issues raised by Officer Jackson, while also urging him to follow the proper channel next time in expressing administrative problems because the President’s yearly visit to the Prison Compound was purely meant to grant clemency.

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