Gbarnga, Bong County - Inmates at the central prison in Gbarnga, Bong County are allegedly rejecting the food they are given daily due to its terrible quality, a source in the prison told our correspondent Wednesday.
Our source also said that the condition of the cells and medical services in the prison have become appalling.
“The prison food is so bad that it is being rejected by starving prisoners,” the source said.
FrontPageAfrica has also learnt that even though there are about 191 inmates in the prison, there is only one doctor in the prison clinic.
“The prison does not have a doctor on 24-hour call."
The doctor comes in once in a while, perhaps once in a week."
"Once prisoners are locked in, guards do not respond to any cries for help. No medical emergency calls are entertained.
“People with psychiatric problems are refused referrals by the prison doctor.
The prison medical facility has no drugs. The cells are choked with inmates.
Some inmates awaiting trial are placed in the same cells with convicted prisoners,” a source said.
FPA also gathered that a sentenced inmate, Modezco Yandi, has been the one taking care of the needs of some of the inmates.
There have also been allegations that visitors have to pay bribes before they can be allowed to see inmates, while wives of wardens are said to be involved in all manners of supply contracts in the prison.
However, one authority at the prison who requested anonymity, said there was no truth in the allegations.
He told our correspondent that the quality of the food given to inmates conforms to the approved specification. He added that no prisoner rejects food in the prison.
“Whoever tells you that Modezco is the one who has been taking care of the welfare of some inmates is just lying,” the prison officer said.
The agony of prisoners
The Gbarnga Central prison which has capacity for 100 inmates currently has over 1,191 people awaiting trial.
The regional office (Bong, Nimba and Lofa counties) of the Justice of the Peace Commission in its report last year declared that the Gbarnga central prison was filled with people whose human rights are systematically violated.
The report stated that 65 per cent of the inmates are awaiting trial.
Most of them, the organization said, have been waiting on that list for many years because they are too poor to pay lawyers.
It is only one out seven of the people awaiting trial that have private legal representation, the report noted.
A former inmate of Gbarnga Central prison only identified as Faith, who recently regained her freedom, narrated how she got to the cell.
In her own words she said: “I was arrested during a raid by the police at the Sunday market. And didn’t know for what reason I was arrested.”
Peter “G Man” Smith is another inmate who claimed to have been wrongly arrested and detained said he did not commit the offence he was charged with.
He told FrontPageAfrica: “I was arrested for alleged armed robbery and since then those I was attested along have been freed but I haven’t been freed. My understanding is my lawyer wants money from me.”
The very slow judicial process is another problem identified to have contributed to the prison congestion at the Gbarnga central prison. The causes of delay, legal sources say, border on the incessant adjournments of cases.
These factors may make a prisoner stay in the prison, waiting for trial for a period longer than he or she would have spent in prison if convicted.
Another factor, FrontPageAfrica has gathered that is contributing to congestion is the overuse of prison sentences and stringent bail conditions by some judges and magistrates as a means of punishment.
This overcrowding could have negative effects on the physical and mental health of inmates, according to medical sources.