The rising number of pre-trial detainees at the Monrovia Central Prison has reached an alarming proportion that the Deputy Special Representative of the Secretary General for Rule of Law with the U.N. Mission in Liberia (UNMIL), Mr. Waldemar Vrey is cautioning the Government of Liberia to address the situation.
Mr. Vrey said the percentage of people still awaiting trial is unacceptably high and as such, the government needs to adopt alternatives in the judicial system to address the overcrowding of prisons. The UNMIL official sounded the caution Wednesday at a ceremony marking the official opening of the Juvenile and Women Rehabilitation Facility at the Monrovia Central Prison (MCP). The Juvenile and Women Rehabilitation Facility at the MCP was constructed with funding from the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA). “I must admit that the percentage of people in prison still awaiting trial is unacceptably high and this is something that we have been bringing to the attention of the judiciary. And we all need to work in one direction in tackling this,” said Vrey. “We should not bring people to the court and just lock them up. The law allows for different solutions and different alternatives. We are not suggesting that something illegal be done. So let’s look at the full consequences of the law, let’s use it to release people in the prison facility, particularly when we are dealing with first time offenders and the issue at hand,” he said. The UN official pointed out that in some cases a lot of people spend prolonged periods in prison as pre-trial detainees, even longer than the time they are supposed to serve if they were convicted. “We have been seeing that people have been detained in some cases where actually even if they were found guilty they would have already been in jail longer than the sentence they would have received. This is not fair and something needs to be done,” he emphasized.