Inmates at Harper Central Prison Crave Rehabilitation Program

Harper Central Prison is without basic logistics while inmates are concerned about the lack of rehabilitation programs

Harper, Maryland County – Prisoners at the Harper Central Prison in Maryland County are calling on the government and humanitarian institutions to provide rehabilitation and recreations programs in the prison.

Report By Moses Geply, LocalVoicesLiberia

The inmates at the county’s main penitentiary are said to be enduring mental stress and depression due to the lack of some basic rehabilitation programs.

The Harper prison currently holds 98 inmates – 7 females and 91 males.

Six of the female convicts were serving a life sentence while one is awaiting court trial.

Speaking to LocalVoicesLiberia on April 6, 2019, the spokesman of Harper Central Prison inmates, Jackson Gaye said the prison currently lacks sustainable programs to help transformed inmates and make them self-sufficient after serving time.

Jackson named vocation like carpentry, plumbing, tailoring, soap marking, agriculture, and electricity as skills that when inmates acquire they will be rehabilitated.

He said this will ensure that when they are freed they would make meaningful contributions to the development of Liberia.

“Despite our confinement for crimes we have committed knowingly and unknowingly, I think we have the right to other basic things that will change us and be good citizens for tomorrow,” said Gaye.

Jackson Gaye (Orange T-Shirt), spokesperson for the inmates, says they are hopeful of becoming good citizens after serving their respective jail time

“Today our physical structures (body) are in jail but our minds are not, therefore I think there is a need that the government of Liberia improves this Harper Central Prison like other prisons across Liberia.

“Our being here doesn’t mean we cannot do something good for ourselves, and this country when we shall have left this place.”

Gaye also expressed concern about the lack of a clinic at the prison and the lack of essential drugs for emergency cases.

Malaria, skin infections and eye problems are often not treated in the prison so inmates are transferred to the nearby government hospital to seek treatment, he said.

“Now, I agreed that we are in prison but some of us here have to spend less time at this prison, what becomes of us if we are attacked by some of these infections or disease?

“Being in Jail does not mean we are failures in life. Life is not bread and butter, anyone can come here today at any time so this is the time for us to speak for ourselves and those who shall come in the nearby future”.

Sarana Toe, a female inmate, says she has not experienced any form of harassment from correction officers or other inmates since she was sentenced three years ago.

However, she says poor health services and unhygienic cells are some of the challenges female inmates are experiencing.

“The cells here are not human-friendly, though we are prisoners I think we have the right too to benefit other human needs because tomorrow we will be leaving this place, what will become of us?”

She then called on President George Weah to tour the prison when he visits Maryland County in the coming months.

“We have learned from our mistakes now in life; we are appealing to the President to come and answer our prayer to free us from this area,” Toe said.

Meanwhile, Caratine P. Cole, Harper Central Prison Superintendent, says the administration of the prison has engaged the central government about its numerous problems but no fruitful response is forthcoming.

“I agree with the inmates, despite they’ve been placed in prison, they have the rights to other basic skills training program because that’s while the prison was established,” Doe said.

Doe added that some of the existing challenges also include the lack of logistics to run the prison.

“Could you imagine, the Harper Central Prison doesn’t even have a motorbike neither car to transport inmates to the hospital during emergency cases,” he explained.

“We usually use our personal money to transport convicts by commercial motorbikes,” adding that it is risky for officers.

This story is a production of LocalVoicesLiberia, a network of Liberian journalists who are based in the 15 counties. The network focuses on reporting underreported stories and lifts the voice of rural communities.