Grand Bassa County prison superintendent Tom Camanda, decries congestion of prison facility in the county, stressing the need for the situation to be addressed, in the wake of the novel coronavirus pandemic.The county has recorded no COVID-19 cases yet, but over-crowdedness of its prison is raising serious concern about a possible outbreak.
Superintendent Camanda told a local correspondent that the main prison, built for 40 inmates, currently has 90 prisoners, which is causing serious problem.Speaking Monday, 11 May during the opening of the May Term of court in Buchanan, Grand Bassa, Mr. Camanda said he is working with county authorities to fine way of reducing the congestion.
Prison over-crowdedness is a serious challenge in Liberia. The government’s main detention facility, the Monrovia Central Prison in the capital is overpopulated.
Conditions of prisons across the country have been described as life-threatening due to food shortages, gross overcrowding, inadequate sanitary environment, and medical care.
The U.S. State Department 2019 Country Reports on Human Rights Practices quote the Bureau of Corrections and Rehabilitation (BCR) at the Ministry of Justice in Monrovia as reporting that the prison population in Liberia’s 16 facilities almost doubles its planned capacity.
The Report published on 11 March noted that approximately one-half of the country’s 2,700 prisoners are at the Monrovia Central Prison (MCP), originally built for 374 detainees, now holds 1,262 inmates.
Specifically, it said Prison Fellowship Liberia (PFL), a local group, detailed that overcrowding in Block D of the MCP subjects prisoners to sleep in shifts, and as of those there, 74 percent are pretrial detainees.
The Report released annually, continued that as of December 2019, prison population countrywide included 75 women and 52 juveniles, adding, “The majority of juveniles were in pretrial detention. Pretrial detainees and convicted prisoners were held together. In some cases men and women were held together, and juveniles were held with adults.”
A total of 17 deaths recorded at the Monrovia Central Prison during the period were attributed to medical reasons, including anemia, heart conditions, and infectious diseases, likely exacerbated by inadequate care.
The Government of Liberia subsequently denied allegations contained in the U.S. Department of State 2019 Country Reports on Human Rights in Liberia, challenging their truthfulness.
–Story by Jonathan Browne