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Report on Prison Conditions in Jamaica


do not approach the problem of overcrowding as an immediate priority, then the situation in our prisons, awful as it is, can only get worse.”


Te same comments apply in 2011.


As well as highlighting the devastating effects of overcrowding, the author also reports on conditions which would be unacceptable no matter how few prisoners had to endure them. He describes a scene in the North Block of Tower Street Adult Correctional Centre:


“Once informed by the warders that I was examining the conditions in the prisons, the inmates crowded round to tell me about the aspects of their existence that most aggrieved them: the open gutter running along the front of the cells, filled with stagnant water and rotting food, the places on the corridor ceiling where plaster was coming away and risked falling on the inmates, the insects that infested their cells. On one section the inmates led me to the washing area at the end of their block. It was disgusting. Tere was one shower pipe – to be shared between over 120 inmates – and three toilets, in an open, unroofed area, with low stone walls dividing the cubicles and shower. Te stone was broken and crumbling, and covered in mould and fungus. Te stench of toilets was overpowering. Te inmates had improvised a screen by placing a sheet over the walls to retain their modesty. I had felt uncomfortable about inspecting the washroom while inmates had their only opportunity to use it for the day, but I was almost physically led down to it by the prisoners, who were so keen to show the terrible state it was in. As they queued to use the shower and toilets, it looked as though they were standing in a 19th century ruin.”


Te author also documents inmates sleeping on the floors of cockroach-infested cells, and spending almost all of their day in cells without natural light, with brief trips to a tiny exercise yard. Tere appeared to be little evidence of any purposeful regimes or opportunities for rehabilitation, despite Jamaica’s professed commitment to rehabilitation in its domestic laws. Te few remaining death row prisoners were housed separately from other prisoners, in contravention of international guidance, and the detention centre housing prisoners with psychiatric problems contained the most distressing conditions of all those witnessed by the author.


Rules 9-21 of the Standard Minimum Rules for the Treatment of Prisoners set out detailed provisions for physical accommodation, none of which appear to be met by the current Jamaican prison regime. For example, Rule 10 requires that ‘All accommodation provided for the use of prisoners and in particular all sleeping accommodation shall meet all requirements of health, due regard being paid to climatic conditions and particularly to cubic contents of air, minimum floor space, lighting, heating and ventilation.’ Even the author’s


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