15 November 2017

Liberia: Bong County Judge Raises Concerns About Overcrowded Prisons

Gbarnga — The Gbarnga Central prison has more inmates than it can handle, and law enforcement officials fear that an overcrowded prison poses serious security threat to the community.

During Monday's opening of the Ninth Judicial Circuit Court, Resident Judge Boimah Kontoe said the prison accommodates 100 inmates, but has 194 inmates.

Of the 194 inmates, 64 are convicts and 130 are pre-trial detainees. When the prison is overcrowded, it's easy for inmates to escape, he said.

In January, 23 prisoners escaped. Eleven were caught, but others are still at-large, he said.

"Some of those who usually escaped prison are hardened criminals who may put our citizens in harm's way," he said.

An overcrowded prison is worrisome because it could lead to jailbreak, the judge said.

"We have to work as a Circuit to ensure that the figure is gradually reduced as cases may require," Kontoe said.

Kontoe urged public defenders to effectively file motions on behalf of clients who remain in pre-trail detention beyond the statutory period.

He also asked Bong County Attorney County Wilkins Nah to review cases thoroughly before transferring them to him to avoid delays and unnecessary detention.

He asked magistrates to review cases before sending people to prison.

"Not every criminal matter should be subject of writ of arrest," he said.

"I have noticed that people bring petit things that can be settled at the police station to prove a point. We have to put that to a halt."

Magistrates in isolated parts of the county where there are no public defenders need to be proactive in adjudicating cases.

Public defenders cannot serve all of the magistrates in the county," he said.

"Take cognizant of the fact to make sure that you are dealing with individual that had been brought before you."

Judge Kontoe returned to the Ninth Judicial Circuit Court after serving the May and August terms at the Civil Law court in Monrovia.

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