Prisons and detention centers were severely overcrowded and presented serious threats to life and health.
Physical Conditions: Overcrowding in particular facilities and poor living conditions remained severe problems. With a maximum capacity of 4,402 inmates, the corrections system contained approximately 4,200 adult inmates. There was considerable overcrowding in particular facilities, since some capacity was unusable due to staffing shortfalls and renovations. While the system’s total capacity reflected both high- and low-security facilities, most inmates were held in high-security facilities. Authorities required detainees to provide everything needed for their time in state custody, including clothes, soap, and a water bottle. The law prohibits the incarceration of children in adult prisons in most cases, and authorities moved to reduce the mixing of juveniles with adults; however, some juveniles were held temporarily in adult facilities. Police lock-ups were designed for short-term detentions, but detainees were sometimes held, without charge, for years in these facilities.
Men and women were incarcerated in separate facilities, although female prisoners generally lived in 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.
The Metcalf Juvenile Remand Center in Kingston, a pretrial facility designed to hold a maximum of 208 juvenile males from ages 12 to17, held approximately 100 boys at any given time and provided comprehensive health, educational, and other services.
The Horizon Adult Remand Center, built originally as a warehouse, held approximately 490 inmates, including some of the most hardened criminals, 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, persons on remand, and convicted criminals shared 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 more than 1,200, and the continuing renovation of some units resulted in relocation of inmates to the remaining units, thus exacerbating the overcrowding. Authorities also held some detainees in the prison’s medical facility. Inmates remained in their cells from 3 p.m. to 9 a.m. with no means to address their hygienic needs. They received a slop bucket to use, but administrators strongly encouraged the inmates not to use them. These conditions at times led to violence and serious health problems among prisoners. The superintendent noted the problems, but insufficient resources prevented prisoners from remaining outside their cells for a larger portion of the day. Bed bugs also were common.
Hunt’s Bay lock-up held prisoners in 11 cage-like structures, which were open, in varying degrees, to weather conditions and the gazes of passersby. Cells were crowded, with up to 10 persons per cell. As a result cells were often soiled with garbage and urine. Detainees claimed authorities allocated cellmates just 15 minutes two to three times a day to bathe, use the bathroom, and fill water bottles. Potable water generally was available, but officials required detainees to provide their own containers to carry water. Male prisoners had limited access to latrine facilities. Between 4 p.m. and 7 a.m. the following day, the prisoners’ only option was to relieve themselves in a slop bucket. The prior commissioner of corrections attempted to disinfect the facilities and obtain new mattresses for the inmates, but lack of funds hindered his efforts, and the center had to rely on donations to conduct routine disinfectant spraying of mattresses and cells.
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 inmates diagnosed as mentally ill 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. Approximately $200 Jamaica dollars (JMD) ($1.79) was budgeted to provide a prisoner three meals per day. As a result prison food was poor, consisting primarily of rice, chicken neck, and slices of bread, and prison authorities frequently ignored inmates’ dietary restrictions. The prisons were unable to provide fruits or vegetables, although prisoners with family nearby could have additional food brought in at predetermined times.
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: In September a new commissioner, the third in 15 months, was appointed to oversee the Department of Correctional Services. 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. Authorities stopped incarcerating minors who were previously defined as uncontrollable but who had committed no crime, and very few remained in remand centers. Authorities trained officers handling juvenile detainees in child psychology, behavioral modification techniques, child-management strategies, and 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. Authorities permitted prisoners and detainees to receive visitors and attend religious observances.
Independent 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. These groups generally operated independently of the government.