The Inquirer is a leading independent daily newspaper published in Liberia, based in Monrovia. It is privately owned with a "good reputation".

No Prison Facility In Pleebo, Harper …As Escapees Resurface For Detention

Sixteen of the 91 pre-trial detainees along with other prisoners who escaped from the Harper Central Prison in Maryland County are beginning to return but there is no facility to withhold them.
The prisoners are observed to be those who allegedly broke jail during the violence that erupted after the mysterious death of a student of the Pleebo High School when angry residents went amok, burned down and ransacked some public facilities including the Central Prison as well as Speaker Bhofal Chambers’ compound.
Due to the damage meted out on the prison facility as well as the police station, all records dating back as far as to the 1940s were damaged and there are even no records on those prisoners who are returning which also makes it difficult, if not impossible for the courts to carryout prosecution.
However, six of the detainees were recaptured by the State security in Pleebo City, while five returned voluntarily and another five were returned through their lawyers.
As the court opens for its May Term in Maryland County, there are 48 cases on the docket; 23 civil and 25 criminal yet, those cases may not be tried because some of the defendants are nowhere to be found following the prison attack in March, 2021.
Harper Central Prison’s Superintendent, Chrispin T. Doe, in an exclusive interview with The INQUIRER confirmed that some escapees are coming back voluntarily while others were re-arrest but neither is the correction palace (Harper Central Prison) nor any of the police stations both in Pleebo and Harper in good conditions to withhold them.
Doe explained that the justice system in Maryland is in jeopardy and the need for quick redemption of the Harper Central Prison including the police stations cannot be overemphasized.
He stated that as if the vandalizing those facilities were the best thing that happened to criminals in the county, there are more crimes being committed in the various communities than ever before and coupled with the incapacitation of the assigned security, nothing must can be done.
Doe however stated that an assessment on the prison has been done by the government through the Justice Ministry, but is uncertain when the renovation works will commence.
“Justice Ministry sent a team and an assessment was done. Unfortunately, the Ministry said it does not have the money to renovate the structure now therefore the report was submitted to the President’s office and we waiting for response,” the prison boss noted.
Though the cost of the renovation deemed as quick impact project is not known but could be huge because when The Inquirer visited the prison compound to see what is left, it was unimaginable.
About how it happened on that fateful day, Doe narrated that the prison officers were nine on duty but they were overpowered by the multitude of people who stormed the facilities.
“With the mob breaking into the prison where the prime suspect was, it was difficult for us to stop them. Some of the attackers, among young people, climbed the 12 feet height fence and jumped into the compound. Fortunately for us, most of them do not know the accused personally,” Doe told this paper.
He explained that, “Before the mob arrived, the prime suspect was already taken to another designation by the State security because if that had not been done, the accused would have been lynch to death by the crowd.
When they entered, Doe continued, they went to various holding cells in the building breaking the locks on the iron doors where some of the pre-trial detainees and those remanded were.
The Chief Jailer of Maryland County said he does not know about the police, immigration, DEA and others but for correctional officers, they are 15 which is not enough because the county is prone to violent crimes with many young people being the main perpetrators.
“On the day of the incident, nine officers including myself were on duty as we were without anything like teargas, water cannon, batons and you just name it, to defend ourselves,” Doe recalled.
He recounted how the mob set ablaze the only container used as warehouse where prisoners’ foodstuffs and other materials including mattresses are kept.
Doe stated that the Harper Prison Center was constructed over 50 years now adding, ‘It was constructed in 1970 by the late President William V. S. Tubman as a birthday gift to the people of Maryland County, but after half a century, it has outlived its usefulness in size because the population of the county has grown as compared to those days.”
The March 31, 2021, incident in Maryland is not the first time neither is it strange for the record. It is the second major incident with the first being the 2009 incident when mob again broke into the facilities and forcibly set free a perpetrator who was on pre-trial detention.
Meanwhile, Jailer Doe is appealing to the government to relocate the Harper Central Prison from the heart of the city to the outskirt like the Zwedru Correctional Palace which is 19 miles outside the capitol in Grand Gedeh County.
Harper Central Prison is situated in Cape Palmas, the capital of Maryland County and it is a coastal town situated between the Atlantic Ocean and the Hoffman River. Harper is Liberia’s 11th largest town, with a population of 17,837.
It is named after Robert Goodloe Harper, a prominent United States politician and member of the American Colonization Society and he proposed the name Liberia for the American Colonization Society’s settlement in Africa and the town of Harper was named in honor of him.
Harper was the capital of the short-lived Republic of Maryland.
While Cape Palmas is considered to be one of the traditional home towns of the Americo-Liberians, the descendants of freed slaves from the United States who settled in Liberia and declared it an independent country in 1847.
John Brown Russworm, an African-American abolitionist and governor of Monrovia, was buried in Harper after his death. There is a statue to commemorate his grave site. One of the town’s most famous citizens is President William Tubman (1895-1971), who was born in Harper.
During the 1970s, Harper was terrorized by ritual killings. The crimes have been regarded as “Liberia’s most notorious ritual killing case” due to the number of murders, the involvement of high ranking government officials and their subsequent public executions; writes Throble K. Suah from Maryland County.

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