Conditions in some of the prison system’s nine facilities continued to be harsh but not life threatening.
Physical Conditions: The country’s prisons operated under government auspices. They had a design capacity for 4,886 inmates and held an average daily population of 3,481. Of those, 1,428 were convicted inmates, and 2,053 were in pretrial or other status. Pretrial detainees often waited six to 10 years before their cases went to trial. Some prisons suffered from extreme overcrowding, while others were not at full capacity. The Maximum Security Prison, with a holding capacity of 2,453, was only 45 percent operational.
Observers often described the Port of Spain Prison and the Golden Grove Remand Yard as having particularly poor conditions and severe overcrowding, with as many as 10 prisoners kept in 10-by-10-foot cells. The Port of Spain Prison, designed to hold 250 inmates, held 582, and the Golden Grove Remand Yard, designed to hold 655 inmates, held 1,077. Inmates at both prisons had sufficient access to medical services, but caregivers often lacked sufficient medical supplies. Medical professionals visited the prison two or three times a week.
The Port of Spain Prison and the Golden Grove Remand Yard held approximately 48 percent of the prison population, while other prison facilities remained below capacity. Neither of these facilities had adequate lighting, ventilation, or sanitation facilities. Prisoners at all facilities had access to potable water and adequate amounts of food. Authorities held pretrial detainees separately from convicted prisoners.
Although conditions at the women’s prison were better than those in the Port of Spain and remand prisons, the women’s facility occasionally became overcrowded, since it held both women on remand and those serving prison sentences. The daily average female prison population was 90 in facilities with maximum capacity of 158.
Since there is no female youth facility, authorities placed some underage female prisoners in the custody of a Roman Catholic facility and others in a segregated wing of the women’s prison.
Authorities held a daily average of 145 male juveniles separately from adults at the Youth Training Center and held fewer than 23 female juveniles in custody at the women’s prison. Observers raised concerns throughout the year that the women’s prison also held young girls who had not committed any offense but who were in state custody.
Authorities charged a number of prison officers for offenses including larceny, drug trafficking, possession of marijuana, and smuggling of contraband to prisoners.
The government also operated the Immigration Detention Center, where the majority of detainees were irregular immigrants who could not immediately afford the cost of travel back to their home country. The average length of detention was one week to two months, depending on the speed with which the government was able to secure public funding for deportation. In some cases detention lasted more than one year. The center had an intended capacity of 150, with men and women held in separate facilities. Observers reported that the men’s section was overcrowded and the women’s section was below capacity. Detainees had access to potable water, food, medical care, and sanitation facilities, as well as regular outdoor access.
Prisoner abuse and medical neglect was a problem. Since 2012 up to three prisoners died as a result of physical abuse or neglect. Physical abuse that did not result in death was more common. Inmates brought at least 10 court cases against prison officers for abuse in 2013, and dozens of other earlier cases remained pending.
Administration: Prisoner recordkeeping was adequate. Authorities made use of alternative sentencing for some nonviolent offenders and worked to refine alternative sentencing options, including the Drug Treatment Court (DTC). The first group of five participants in the DTC program graduated in July. The Ministry of Justice conducted a review and evaluation of all major inmate rehabilitation programs throughout the prison service.
Prisoners and detainees had reasonable access to visitors and could observe their religious practices. Prison authorities permitted prisoners and detainees to submit complaints to judicial authorities without censorship and request investigations of credible allegations of inhumane conditions. Prisoners could also contact the Office of the Ombudsman, which has the authority to investigate complaints related to the functions and duties of most government departments. Authorities investigated and monitored prison and detention center conditions but did not document the results in a publicly accessible manner.
Independent Monitoring: The government permitted regular and open prison visits by independent human rights observers upon approval of the Ministry of Justice. These observers enjoyed a reasonable degree of independence.
Improvements: During the year the Prison Service focused on restorative justice and inmate rehabilitation, increased powers for prison inspectors, improved prison infrastructure, and better working conditions for officers. Specifically, the Prison Service increased support for reintegration programs such as Multi-Sector Skills Training and Helping You Prepare for Employment. Infrastructure improvements included the addition of toilets into cells, expansion of telephone systems for prisoner use, and an improvement in the quality of food.