Conditions in some of the prison system’s nine facilities continued to be harsh. On June 16 and 17, riots erupted in the remand yard of the Golden Grove Prison, which resulted in injuries to dozens of prisoners and five prisoner officers. Prisoners, as well as a number of prison officers, blamed the riots on police brutality and inhuman prison conditions. After the riot the commissioner of prisons implemented additional security measures at the facility to prevent further rioting.
Physical Conditions: Convicted inmates constituted approximately 37 percent of the country’s average prison population, while the remainder were in pretrial status.
Some prisons suffered from extreme overcrowding, while others were not at full capacity. Observers often described the Port of Spain Prison, the Maximum Security Prison, and the Remand Prison, which held approximately 56 percent of the prisoners, as having particularly poor conditions and severe overcrowding, with as many as nine prisoners kept in six-by-eight-foot cells. According to one prison guard, the Maximum Security Prison was “not fit for human habitation,” with some prisoners forced to sleep standing up, as there was no room to sit. The Port of Spain Prison, designed to hold 250 inmates, held 652, and the Remand Prison, designed to hold 655 inmates, held 1,024.
The Port of Spain and Remand Prisons had particularly poor lighting, ventilation, and sanitation facilities.
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 130 in facilities with a maximum capacity of 158. Since there is no female youth facility, authorities placed some underage female prisoners in a segregated wing of the women’s prison, while authorities returned others to their families.
Authorities held a daily average 10 female juveniles in custody at the women’s prison. Observers raised concerns that the women’s prison also held young girls who had not committed any offense but who were in state custody.
The government also operated the Immigration Detention Center, where detainees were irregular immigrants waiting to be deported. The average length of detention was one week to two months, depending on the speed with which the government secured public funding for deportation, as well as transit passports and visas. In some cases detention lasted more than four years. Observers reported that the men’s section was overcrowded.
Prisoner abuse and medical neglect were problems. In June a total of 25 prisoners were injured in a riot.
Administration: Most prisoners could observe their religious practices, although there was one high-profile case of a murder suspect suing the Prison Service for denying his right to attend weekly religious services. Independent 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 UN officials and 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 improved the security of its prison facilities, including the use of more modern surveillance technologies and stronger collaboration with external security agencies. Officials also introduced religious and cultural programs in an effort to rehabilitate inmates more effectively.