Gbarnga, Bong County (LINA) – The Ministry of Justice has instituted a nine-hour curfew in the city of Gbarnga following the mass jailbreak at the Gbarnga Central Prison in Bong County.
About 21 inmates, including convicts and pre-trail detainees, Wednesday afternoon broke the gates of the Gbarnga Central Prison after they were put out of their holding cell to take ‘sun bath’ in the inner fence of the prison.
Bong County Attorney Wilkins Nah told the Liberia Agency that the curfew begins at 10:00 p.m. to 6:00 a.m. Attorney Nah said officers of the Police Support Unit based at the Regional Justice and Security Hub in Gbarnga have been deployed around Gbarnga to assist the county local police detachment to strengthen the ongoing search operation for the escapees. He said motorcyclists and residents of Gbarnga have been advised to leave the streets during the curfew hours, adding that the joint security is also working with residents of the city and its environs to support the efforts to re-arrest the inmates. The Chief Superintendent of the prison, Bendu S. Kollie, also told LINA that the inmates are usually put outside of the holding cell to spend some time in the fence after taking bath and served their ration.
Kollie said the inmates took over the facility and collected baton, knife and other instruments from the kitchen and begin to assault correction officers.
She explained that the inmates collected telephones and other valuables from correction officers at the facility and threatened to kill any of them if they raised alarm.
The Gbarnga Central Prison in Bong County is a major detention facility hosting over 200 hundred inmates, including convicts and pre-trail detainees. The latest jail-break at the Gbarnga prison comes in the wake of reports of the facility being overcrowded with pre-trail detainees beyond the statutory period.
There have also been reports of poor sanitary condition, with limited food ration. Following a visit to the prison last year, Chief Justice Francis Korkpor spoke with journalists in Gbarnga urging judges and magistrates in Liberia to be lenient when passing sentences on accused persons. Chief Justice Korkpor made the appeal recently when he visited the Gbarnga Central prison. He said that imposing minimum sentences could change a convict positively instead of a maximum sentence which could harden them the more.
“Let the idea of your toughness be based on your firmness to do your job but not your firmness to impose maximum and excessive sentences,” Chief Justice Korkpor said.
“If you do that you will be tampering justice with mercy because the person standing trial will be wondering what kind of magistrate or judge you are,” he added.
Chief Justice Kporkor decried a situation where a suspect will be remanded in custody for more period than he would have stayed in prison if sentenced for the offence.
He appealed to the magistrates and judges to always consider bail application if an offence was bailable, rather than remanding a suspect in prison custody.