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UNDP, Bureau of Corrections collaborate to decongest prisons

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The Bureau of Corrections and Rehabilitation (BCR), with support from UNDP, will conduct a series of workshops from June 7-24 to raise awareness on the use of probation and parole as a means of decongesting prisons in the country.

According to a press release, the workshops to be held in Grand Cape Mount, Margibi and Grand Bassa counties respectively will discuss the use of sentencing tools and other modules with a wide variety of community members, including women, youth, administrative and traditional leaders. They also include lessons from Lofa and Nimba counties where probation services are in use and will have a day devoted to lawyers, magistrates, judges and criminal justice agency personnel.

The counties in which the workshops will be held recently recruited and trained a total of 75 probation officers.
The national prison population stands at around 2,620 prisoners while prison capacity allows for a maximum of 1,350, the release notes.

Probation is the placement of well-behaved criminal offenders under the supervision of correctional or law enforcement officers (i.e. probation officers), sometimes to undertake community service, instead of committing them to prison. Parole is the early and conditional release of a prisoner from jail on condition they agree to fulfill certain conditions, including abiding by the country’s laws.

Probation and parole are crucial sentencing options in any criminal justice system, now more than ever with the threat of COVID-19 looming especially in over-crowded places such as prisons.They are not only beneficial to eligible offenders but also to their families and society as these people can be more easily integrated back into society and become productive, supporting their families and contributing to their community’s advancement.

The UN Human Rights Committee has expressed concern over prison conditions in Liberia and urged measures to reduce overcrowding, in particular through the promotion of alternatives to detention.Furthermore, there is prolonged pretrial detention because of overcrowded court dockets in Liberia.

On 6 January 2021, 67% of the prison population included pre-trial detainees-1,770 prisoners, most of whom cannot afford to pay bail. The immediate benefit is decongesting prisons as an alternative sentence. In the longer term, it is hoped that the service can also be used to supervise pre-trial detainees on bail. Press Release

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