Liberia’s Justice Minister Musa Dean says it is not secure to have Monrovia Central Prison in the middle of the town, agreeing with his junior official’s suggestion that kicks against running a major prison facility in the middle of the city that has the propensity “to pose security threat.”
“It is not a healthy, secure and advisable development to have the prison in the middle of this part of the town. So we are also going to be looking into that,” Minister Dean said Thursday, 12 April in his first official visit at the maximum prison down Center Street.
Minister Dean says there is a new effort in Cheesmanburg, Montserrado County “to construct a new prison” there, noting that the administrative quarters of the new facility are now completed while the structure intended to house inmates is either in its early stage or has not really started at all.
“Of course you know there’s cost implication. So we are going to be visiting Cheesmanburg Prison under construction and let’s hope that we can determine what is required to put up this structure,” he says.
Notwithstanding Minister Dean says he is troubled by the number of pretrial detainees in excess of 800 at the Monrovia Central Prison, stressing that “this is unacceptable.”
“Everyone should have a day in court. The system is stretched, the capacity is limited to an extent, but we are engaged in projects that will lead to curtailing this acute problem of pretrial detainees,” he says.
Minister Dean adds that the Ministry is reviewing the listing of inmates to release those detained for petty crimes but have shown good behavior while in detention. He says there is a fast track court in the prison and the process will be reviewed to see how effective it is and the result that has been achieved.
Earlier, Assistant Justice Minister for rehabilitation Mr. Eddie Tarawali called for the relocation of the MCP, arguing that in no contemporary society you would have “a major prison facility in the middle of the city that has the propensity and proclivity to pose security threat.”
“We are recommending to your office that … the Monrovia Central prison must be relocated …, under no contemporary society where you have a major facility in the middle of the city. That has the propensity and proclivity to security threat,” Mr. Tarawali says.
He appealed to his boss to prioritize prisoners’ rehabilitation program and use the prisons as an industry to produce all public school chairs and uniforms and sell them at minimum costs to mitigate inmates’ feeding program.
He says one of the paramount issues facing prisons in Liberia is the medical service, reporting that buses are down and ambulances are not in use. Mr. Tarawali also complains that inmates’ feeding is also a challenge here, appealing to Minister Dean to consider it as paramount during his tour.
Monrovia Central Prison Superintendent Col. Varney G. Lake says the current population at the central prison is 1094, far beyond its capacity of 375 inmates. Col. Lake says 836 of those inmates are pretrial detainees and 258 are convicted inmates.
By Winston W. Parley