The United States Department of State has indicated in its 2015 Human Rights report on Liberia that prison conditions in the West African nation were harsh, and at times, life threatening due to overcrowding, food shortages, lack of sanitary facilities, and inadequate medical care.
“Inadequate space, bedding and mosquito netting, food, sanitation, ventilation, cooling, lighting, basic and emergency medical care, and potable water contributed to harsh and sometimes life-threatening conditions in the country’s 15 prisons and detention centers. Many prisoners supplemented their meals by purchasing food at the prison or receiving food from visitors. The local press and Prison Fellowship Liberia, a local nongovernmental organization (NGO), reported that prison officials threatened prisoners’ lives,” the report stated. According to the States Department Human Rights report, the Bureau of Corrections and Rehabilitation (BCR) at the Ministry of Justice reported two prisoner deaths through November 25. According to the BCR, approximately half of the country’s 2,203 prisoners were at Monrovia Central Prison (MCP). This prison operated at nearly three times its 375-person capacity because of the large number of pretrial detainees. The MCP population of 1,008 individuals included eight women and eight juveniles as of December, and there were approximately 20 women in other prisons. “Prisons remained understaffed and prison personnel were irregularly paid,” the report added. The US Human Rights averred that Liberia’s security forces continued to make arbitrary arrests, especially during major holidays, in an effort to anticipate and prevent crime. “Although the law provides for a defendant to receive an expeditious trial, lengthy pretrial and pre-arraignment detention remained serious problems. An estimated 78 percent of prisoners were pretrial detainees as of November, despite the large number of detainees released by the Magistrate Sitting Program during 2014 to reduce EVD transmission in overcrowded prisons. Unavailability of counsel at the early stages of proceedings contributed to prolonged pretrial detention. A 2013 study of the MCP population revealed pretrial detainees were held on average more than 10 months. For example, an LNP officer was detained for nearly four months without a formal charge on suspicion of manslaughter after a civil disturbance in the town of Paynesville in April,” the report stated.