Prisons and detention centers were severely overcrowded and presented serious threats to life and health. The government could not ensure the physical safety of prisoners. The UN special rapporteur on torture in a 2010 report called the conditions of detention “appalling” and in some cases “inhumane,” although he did not find instances of torture.
Physical Conditions: Overcrowding and poor living conditions remained severe problems. With a maximum rated capacity of 4,652 inmates, the corrections system contained approximately 4,000 adult inmates, including at least 200 women and girls. However, there was considerable overcrowding, since rated capacity reflected both high- and low-security facilities, some capacity was unusable due to staffing shortfalls, and most inmates were held in high-security facilities. There was no separate facility for female juveniles. Although the law prohibits the incarceration of children in adult prisons in most cases, approximately 100 juveniles were held in adult jails. Another 347 juveniles were in detention in juvenile-only facilities.
Conditions at the juvenile lock-ups were poor. Investigations into the Moneague, Half-Way Tree, Admiral Town, and Glengoffe juvenile detention facilities revealed that minors reported contracting fungus from the conditions in the cells and from sleeping on cold concrete. Juvenile inmates also complained of roaches crawling over them during the day and at night. At the Admiral Town lock-up, jailers let juveniles out of their cells for only five minutes each day to bathe and use the toilet. At both Admiral Town and Half-Way Tree, the minor inmates were provided with bottles in which to urinate.
The Horizon Adult Remand Center, built originally as a warehouse, held some of the country’s most hardened criminals, approximately 80 percent of whom had links to criminal gangs. Authorities did not clearly separate detainees according to their different stages of criminal procedure. Persons detained without charges, remandees, and convicted criminals were held in the same facility and often shared cells. At the St. Catherine Adult Correctional Institution in Spanish Town, inmates shared dark, unventilated, and dirty cells. Designed to hold 800 inmates, the facility held 1,200. Intended to hold 50 detainees, each cell held an average of 138. Police officers at the facility reported that mentally ill detainees were locked in the bathroom of the holding section. Some detainees also were held in the prison’s medical facility.
The Tower Street Adult Correctional Center, located in downtown Kingston, held approximately 1,700 inmates, exceeding the facility’s 800-person maximum intended capacity. Men and women were incarcerated in separate facilities, although female prisoners generally were incarcerated under better conditions than their male counterparts. Cells in some facilities had little natural light, inadequate artificial light, subpar bathroom and toilet facilities, and poor ventilation. Hunt’s Bay lock-up held prisoners in a cage-like structure open to the elements and the gazes of passersby. Detainees were crowded, with up to six persons per cell, and soiled with garbage and urine. Potable water generally was available, but detainees were required to provide their own containers to carry water. Male prisoners had limited access to latrine facilities. Between 4:00 p.m. and 7:00 a.m. the following day, the prisoners’ only option was to relieve themselves in a “slop bucket.” The commissioner of corrections made several attempts to disinfect the facilities and obtain new mattresses for the inmates, but lack of funds hindered his efforts.
The women’s prison, Fort Augusta, with nearly 300 inmates, had no indoor water supply. Inmates had to obtain water from a central source in containers they provided themselves. Female juveniles also were held at Fort Augusta. Renovation delays caused by budget shortages postponed the planned December transfer of Fort Augusta inmates to an upgraded South Camp Facility, where juveniles would be separated from adults; no new transfer target date was scheduled.
Throughout the system medical care was poor, primarily a result of having only three full-time doctors and one full-time nurse on staff. Four part-time psychiatrists cared for at least 225 diagnosed mentally ill inmates in 12 facilities across the island. Prisoners in need of dentures and unable to eat the prison food encountered difficulties gaining access to a dentist. Prison food was poor, and prison authorities frequently ignored inmates’ dietary restrictions. Additionally, only approximately J$174 ($1.90) was budgeted to provide a prisoner three meals per day. At least seven prisoners died in detention during the year, five from natural causes, one due to an unknown cause, and one by hanging. At year’s end authorities were investigating whether the hanging victim was a suicide or a victim of foul play.
Allegations of physical abuse of prisoners by guards continued, despite efforts by the government to remove abusive guards and improve procedures. INDECOM investigated all reports of abuse by prison officials.
Administration: The budget for prisons and lockups was inadequate in light of the overwhelming challenges and demands facing the system. Nonviolent youth offenders were under the jurisdiction of the social services agency, which generally sent them to unsecured halfway houses (called “places of safety” or “juvenile remand centers”) after removing them from their homes. However, because the law does not clearly define an “uncontrollable child,” a large number of minors were classified as uncontrollable and detained for long periods without regard to the nature of their offenses. In the case of juveniles held in two of the adult facilities, even when police attempted to have officers from the social services agency retrieve minor detainees, the agency failed to do so, thereby obliging the police to comingle them with adults. Authorities trained officers handling juvenile detainees in child psychology, behavioral modification techniques, child-management strategies, and national and international human rights laws.
There was no specific prison ombudsman. Although prisoners could make complaints to the Public Defender’s Office without censorship, and representatives usually could enter the detention centers and interview prisoners without hindrance, official complaints and investigations were infrequent.
Monitoring: The government allowed private groups, voluntary and religious organizations, local and international human rights organizations, and the media to visit prisons and monitor prison conditions, and such visits took place during the year.
The government took no tangible actions to address the UN special rapporteur’s findings in 2010 that officers at the Hunt’s Bay Police Station were “very obstructive, uncooperative, aggressive, and openly threatened his team during their visit.” However, reacting to what she deemed “terrible conditions” in the prisons, the chief justice instructed all resident magistrates to conduct regular visits of police lock-ups and forward their observations to her office in writing. She counseled the magistrates to remind police of detainees’ right to due process.
Improvements: With foreign assistance, there were some improvements for juvenile male remandees at the Metcalf Juvenile Remand Center in Kingston, a pretrial facility designed to hold a maximum of 208 male juveniles from ages 12 to17. It held 135 boys and provided comprehensive services, including medical and mental health screening, assessment and treatment; counseling and other therapeutic interventions; education and skills training; behavior modification programs, including drug treatment and prevention; sports and recreational activities; and spiritual engagement. There was a classroom and one-on-one instruction at the Metcalf facility. There was no similar facility for remanded female juveniles nor for any convicted juveniles.
Female juveniles still resided at St. Augustus, although a facility for remanded girls similar to Metcalf was set for construction in Stony Hill. By including classrooms, the commissioner of corrections provided education for minors, which is technically compulsory until age 16. According to Jamaicans For Justice (JFJ), a human rights nongovernmental organization (NGO), in September the minister of education ordered a team to assess the educational needs of the children in the detention facilities. Another NGO, Stand Up For Jamaica, worked with prison authorities to provide basic education and vocational training to approximately 700 inmates, including children.