Liberia: Monrovia Central Prison Superintendent Says Government is Violating the Rights of Inmates at Various Prison Facilities


MONROVIA – The Superintendent of the Monrovia Central Prison, Varney G. Lake, says the Ministry of Justice, through its Bureau of Correction and Rehabilitation (BCR) is “running an old age prison system” in the wake of food shortage confronting inmates at various prison facilities across the country.

In recent times, parents, friends and relatives of inmates incarcerated at various prison facilities are constrained to go the extra mile by providing food for their relatives and loved ones on a regular basis due to the shortage of food at various prison facilities across the nation.

As a result of the situation, prison authorities are no longer accepting inmates or convicts to be detained or served their sentences at the Monrovia, Bong, Kakata and Grand Cape Mount central prisons, among others.

Speaking when he participated on the OK Morning Rush Show via telephone on Tuesday, January 4, Supt. Lake confirmed the shortage of food at the Monrovia Central Prison in the wake of over crowdedness.

The prison was originally constructed for the intake of 370 inmates, but it is holding about 1386 inmates presently.

He pointed out that the previous ration supplied to the prison facility by the Ministry was “overused” due to the influx of inmates at the facility.

Supt. Lake, however, alarmed over the high level of bureaucracy surrounding the acquisition of ration and others from the Ministry of Justice for the adequate management of the prison facility and inmates

“Absolutely, there is no food; the Bureau of Correction food depends on the budgetary allotment provided by the Ministry of Justice. Whatsoever we do, we must apply to central administration for everything and we know the bureaucracy in getting these things”.

“We were supplied rice from September to December and the food was consumed because the inmates’ population has increased. We used to cook 15 to 17 bags but when the inmates increased, we started cooking 20 to 22 bags. So, the number of rice that was supplied, we started to overuse it”.

He said despite the huge population at the prison facility, President George Manneh Weah recently presented about 100 bags for inmates at the Monrovia Central Prison.

He denied reports that food ration being supplied to the facility are being taken away by prison authorities, adding that, “we never played with inmates food”.

Violating rights

Supt. Lake noted that the over crowdedness of the prison violates the rights of the inmates.

 “Every prison facility has the capacity of that institution; the 1386 inmates we have at the Monrovia Central Prison-that alone is a human right violation. We into prison management, we take these things into consideration because, accommodation matters. You know what it means for inmates to go without food?”

Avoiding eventuality

Supt. Lake pointed out that authorities at the facility are compelled to intensify their inter-personal relationship with the inmates to avoid eventuality.

“Yesterday we went out appealing and talking to them; they are human and they are my people. I know what I can do with them”.

He pointed out that authorities at the prison are not accepting any inmate or convict until the situation is addressed.

He named adequate accommodation, feeding, appearance of inmates in court as the hallmark of a proper prison management and as such, Liberia should continue to uphold these tenets because the nation remains a signatory to key conventions and protocols on the protection of the rights of inmates.

Supt. Lake maintained that it is quite unimaginable for inmates at the country’s largest prison facility to go without food for days.

He noted that inmates’ right to have food while in prison is also being violated and as such, authorities at the Monrovia Central Prison are now concerned about decongesting the facility currently.

In keeping with this, Supt. Lake pointed out that about seven inmates were released from the facility on Monday, January 3.

Commending “Jeety”

He named top Indian business tycoon Dr. Upjit Sachdeva, commonly known as “Jeety” as the only foreign businessman who continues to provide food for the inmates during difficult times.

“Jeety” has been providing hot cooked meal, drinks and others to the inmates on a regular basis.

He recently provided running water in all of the housing units at the Monrovia Central prison and a generator.

Supt. Lake added that despite the situation, he will continue to talk and calm down the inmates.

Looming security threats

The Monrovia Central Prison is presently hosting bulk of Liberia’s notorious armed robbers, criminals, among others.

The current situation at the prison facility, if not handled or addressed promptly, would lead to jail break and the influx of these convicts and inmates into the communities.

Already, there is a growing wave of insecurity in the post conflict nation as a result of partial dispensation of justice, disrespect for the rule of law and the influx of disadvantaged youths snatching cell phones and other valuables from peaceful Liberian citizens on the principle streets of Monrovia and its environs.

If nothing is done to address the shortage of food at various prison facilities across the country, the possibility of inmates finding flimsy excuse by going on the rampage in search of food remains certain.