Liberia: Death Toll Reportedly Rising at South Beach over Illnesses but Asst. Min. for Corrections Denies Report


Monrovia – Widespread illness at the Monrovia Central Prison is reportedly leading to a rising death toll among inmates at the facility.

FrontPageAfrica has gathered from some family sources that failure to adequately address the medical conditions of these inmates is creating a series of illnesses among them.

Sources within the facility who preferred anonymity have also confirmed that in the last two weeks, about six people have died at the facility due to illness.

By Willie N. Tokpah, [email protected]

The facility is overcrowded. The facility was initially built for less than 400 people, but now hosts over a thousand inmates.

Our source noted that the corps of these deceased inmates are taken away by medical vans from the facility to the John F. Kennedy Medical Center.

FPA has also been informed that due to the situation believed to be resulting from overcrowdedness, the facility is refusing to accept new inmates forwarded by the courts.

“It’s something very terrible;  the lack of food, no medical attention, no safe drinking water, and the prison is overcrowded,” a source within the Monrovia Central Prison said.

Several prisoners are said to be currently walking like zombies due to a lack of sufficient meals and adequate medication and few are gradually turning into living skeletons.

Our source also maintained that some of the prisoners usually drop to the ground when taking a walk due to lack of stamina.

“The death rate is getting high but they are hiding it from the public and to prove this for sure, just yesterday, December 12, Varney Lake, the Prison Superintendent began to take a radical step by denying inmates being sent from the various courts to South Beach on grounds that the prison is overcrowded,” the source noted.

FrontPageAfrica has also gathered further; that Judges had a meeting with Public Defendants and Prosecutors on Tuesday, December 13, between the hours of 12:00 noon to 3:30 pm, brainstorming on way forward regarding the situation at the Prison, on grounds that the action from the Monrovia Central Prison Superintendent has reached the Office of Chief Justice and Judges from various Courts who had to send inmates into the compound.

The Prison Compound has been Struggling to feed itself for over a year now with the Government doing nothing to visit such a situation which has turned the Prison leadership into beggars, seeking help from humanitarians, organizations, and other well-meaning Business Partners just to feed inmates only one time a day.

When contacted, Assistant Justice Minister For Correction and Rehabilitation, Eddie Tarawali told FrontPageAfrica that the information about the death toll rising at the Monrovia Central Prison is untrue but admitted that the facility is overcrowded.

Minister Tarawali said even though some inmates are ill at the facility, inmates have been taking treatments at a mini clinic within the Monrovia Central Prison, unless when it’s a critical condition before they are transferred to the John F. Kennedy Medical Center.

“Even in society people die normally and the prison is no exception, the prison is overcrowded, but nobody has died as per my record.

When people are sick, a condition that can be handled in the prison, we handle it, we have a mini clinic which deals with mini issues and when it’s critical, we referred them to JFK,” Minister Talawali averred.

He, however, noted that some of these illnesses being experienced by inmates are rashes, scabies, and other skin infections, while others have Malaria which can be handled by the mini-clinic.

As a means of decongesting the facility, Minister Tarawali noted that the government has begun the construction of extra prison facilities at the Monrovia Central Prison.

“Because of overcrowding, the prison has taught not to accept any inmate until they decongest the facility, so we are working with the court to ensure we can proceed with fast-tracking of Magistrate sitting,” Talawali maintained.

“There will be a lot, the engineers are here and we are constructing a lot to accommodate more people.”

Currently, Tarawali noted that there are over 1,600 plus inmates at the facility when the facility should be hosting 375 inmates.

He explained that the overcrowding is due to the lack of capacity by the country.

“When they were constructing this Monrovia Central Prison, they never taught that the facility would have overcrowded, that’s the mistake they made.

The construction of the additional prison facility, he started, is an emergency project since according to him, prison facilities across Liberia are now overcrowded.

Moreover, Minister Tarawali asserted, that as a strategy to decongest the Monrovia Central Prison, those who committed misdemeanor crimes and others in various categories will be let out from the Central Prison.

He said: “There are people who have been convicted with restitution and when you are convicted with restitution and completed your sentence term but did not restitute fees charged, your time will be calculated and you will be let out to pay the remaining amount.

Also, another group of people people who came for misdemeanor offenses will be let out. The court should be able to litigate that and there should be alternative sentences for those people, while the last group will be people of old age from 70 to 80 years, but they are not harmful anymore.”

Minister Talawali in the same way said that the process of releasing these prisoners is expected to roll out between December 14 the 17.

He believes when that is done, it will create room for those who committed murder and other hideous crimes to be accommodated in the prison facility.