Prisons and detention centers throughout the country remained overcrowded, poorly maintained, and unsanitary.
Physical Conditions: Prison and detention center overcrowding was severe, especially in the National Penitentiary; the Petionville women’s prison; the Petit-Goave jail; and the prisons in Jeremie, Les Cayes, Port de Paix, and Hinche. Only the newly constructed prison in Croix des Bouquets conformed to international norms and was not significantly overcrowded, albeit slightly over capacity. Others, including the detention facilities in Port-au-Prince, Cap Haitien, Fort Liberte, Mirabalais, Jacmel, Hinche, Les Cayes, Anse-a-Veau, and Port de Paix, exceeded the UN’s prescribed capacity of 27 square feet per inmate. In some prisons detainees slept in shifts due to lack of space. Some prisons had no beds for detainees, and some cells had no access to sunlight. In others. the cells often were open to the elements and lacked adequate ventilation. Many prison facilities lacked basic services such as plumbing, sanitation, waste disposal, medical services, potable water, electricity, and isolation units for contagious patients. Some prison officials used chlorine to sanitize drinking water, but in general prisoners did not have access to treated drinking water.
International observers indicated prisoners and detainees continued to suffer from a lack of basic hygiene, malnutrition, poor quality health care, and water-borne illness. An estimated 10 percent of the prison population suffered from malnutrition and severe anemia, while sanitation-related diseases, including scabies, diarrhea, and oral infections, were commonplace. In several prisons the Department of Corrections (DAP) and the International Committee of the Red Cross provided personal hygiene kits; in many others, inmates’ families provided the kits. Because of the poor security, severe understaffing, and conditions of some detention centers, some prisons did not allow prisoners out of their cells for exercise. From January to September, the HNP’s DAP recorded 54 inmate deaths in prisons. The majority of deaths were due to heart failure, severe anemia, and strokes.
Many detention facilities did not contain clinics for treatment of illnesses and diseases contracted while in custody. Few prisons had the resources to treat serious medical situations. In some prisons the incidence of HIV/AIDS and malaria remained a serious problem, although the programs of several NGOs, international organizations, and donor countries continued to reduce the incidence of these diseases. The National Penitentiary and Cap Haitien prisons experienced small-scale outbreaks of cholera. The outbreaks were quickly contained but resulted in four prisoners’ deaths.
Prison conditions generally varied by inmate gender. Female inmates in coed prisons received proportionately more space in their cells than their male counterparts, but women at the Petionville women’s prison, like men at mixed-gender prison facilities, had less than 11 square feet of cell space per person. Female prisoners also appreciated a better quality of life than did their male counterparts due to their smaller numbers, which wardens suggested was a contributing factor to their ease of control. Access to water and adequate plumbing was a problem at the women’s prison, which had no flushing toilets, and where one pit latrine served 319 inmates.
The DAP estimated there were 11,200 prisoners in the country’s jails and as of September. The DAP also held prisoners in makeshift and unofficial detention centers, such as police stations in Petit-Goave, Miragoane, Gonaives, some parts of Port-au-Prince, and other locations. Local authorities held suspects in makeshift facilities, sometimes for extended periods, without registering them with the DAP. The number of prisoners in the country’s jails did not include those held in unofficial detention centers such as police stations. For example, in September a police station in Petit Goave held 172 individuals awaiting trial or transfer to prison.
Corrections authorities in Port-au-Prince maintained separate penitentiaries for adult men, women, and minors. In Port-au-Prince all male prisoners under 18 years of age were to be held at the juvenile facility at Delmas 33, but due to the lack of sufficient documentation, authorities could not always verify the ages of detainees. At times authorities detained minors believed to be older, and whose ages could not be confirmed, with adult inmates. Authorities moved the vast majority of these minors to juvenile detention centers within two months of verifying their ages. Outside Port-au-Prince minors and adults often occupied the same cells due to lack of available space. Authorities did not hold girls separately from women at the Petionville women’s prison but separated convicts from pretrial detainees when possible. Due to lack of space, resources, and oversight outside the capital, authorities often did not segregate juveniles from adult prisoners or convicted prisoners from pretrial detainees, as the law requires.
Corrections officers were severely underresourced and lacked basic riot control and self-defense capacity. Prisoners’ access to adequate nutrition remained a problem. The HNP has contractual and fiscal responsibility for the delivery of food to prisons. Some prisons had kitchen facilities and employed persons to prepare and distribute food. Prison authorities generally provided prisoners with one or two meals a day, consisting of broth with flour dumplings and potatoes, rice and beans, or porridge. None of the regular meals served to prisoners provided sufficient calories, according to medical standards. As a result authorities allowed prisoners regular deliveries of food from relatives and friends. Human rights groups reported that families sometimes paid prison staff to deliver supplemental meals and clothing to prisoners.
The HNP also managed other service contracts at prisons, such as sewage treatment. Most prisons had insufficient sewage facilities for their populations. Since only one HNP central office handled all contracts for law enforcement and prisons, attention to sewage problems often was lacking.
Administration: The government did not keep adequate prison records. The effectiveness of a 2009 database created by the UN Development Program (UNDP) and the government was limited because the UNDP system was not completely compatible with the internal HNP recordkeeping system. Prisons utilized only handwritten paper files to document and manage inmates. There was no alternative sentencing for nonviolent offenders.
There was no prison ombudsman to handle complaints; however, the country’s independent human rights monitoring body, the Office of the Citizen Protector (OPC), maintained a presence at several prison facilities and advocated for the rights and better conditions of prisoners, especially juveniles in preventive detention, and investigated credible allegations of inhuman conditions. The OPC regularly visited prisons and detention facilities in the country’s 18 jurisdictions and worked closely with NGOs and civil society groups.
Independent Monitoring: The DAP permitted the International Committee of the Red Cross, MINUSTAH, local human rights NGOs, and other organizations to freely monitor prison conditions. These institutions and organizations investigated allegations of abuse and mistreatment of prisoners, resulting several times in the improvement of their situations.
Improvements: Construction of a new 200-bed prison facility in Cabaret and a 300-bed facility in Fort Liberte continued during the year. A clinic for prisoners suffering from multidrug-resistant tuberculosis opened at the National Penitentiary earlier in the year. The facility also served to fulfill urgent requests from prisons throughout the West Department for laboratory tests and x-rays.
In July the government began a “Coup de Poing” initiative to reduce pretrial detention at the youth and women’s prison and the National Penitentiary. The program brought judicial officials to prisons to hold hearings for prisoners in pretrial detention. At the youth facility, the program resulted in an 18 percent reduction in the number of pretrial detainees after two weeks. At the National Penitentiary, the program operated for two weeks in September and resulted in the release of 91 prisoners who were found to be innocent or had exceeded the maximum sentence prescribed for their crime while awaiting trial.