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Part One: Introduction and Statutory Framework

Tis report is written with the conviction that the rightly celebrated restrictions on the use of the death penalty on the island should not be allowed to distract attention from the appalling conditions in which the vast majority of Jamaican prisoners, including the few currently under sentence of death, remain held. Perhaps surprisingly, given its traditional emphasis on penal politics, Jamaica’s actual rate of imprisonment is not, comparatively speaking, particularly high. It is ranked 72nd in the world in this respect, incarcerating 174 people per 100,000 of its population (the United Kingdom is 86th with 153 per 100,000)6

Further, the proportion of the prison population who are awaiting trial is

actually lower than in the UK, at 15%, ranking Jamaica 162nd in the world under this criterion. However, the island’s penal system remains archaic and acutely overcrowded, and the volatility inherent in Jamaican politics and manifested in its crime rate has been repeatedly reflected by serious unrest and tragic incidents in its prisons. Tere have been two major domestic enquiries into incidents which resulted in the death of inmates and correctional officers at SCACC and Tower Street Adult Correctional Centre (TSACC) over the past 15 years.7

in May 2009 led to the deaths of seven young female detainees.8

More recently, a fire at the Armadale Juvenile Detention Centre It is therefore surprising

that there has been no in-depth independent report by an external body or human rights group concerning the Jamaican prison population for some years.

Tis report could not have been written without the support and assistance of Tim Naylor, Jesse Nicholls, Samantha Barnett and Admas Habteslasie, former interns at the IJCHR; the UK Human Rights Lawyers Association, who provided me with a bursary; and Nancy Anderson, without whom it would never have got close to getting off the ground. Any mistakes, however, remain entirely my own.

As is explained below in the methodology section, due to administrative difficulties and the resulting limited time and access available, what started as an ambitious project to examine Jamaican prison conditions in general was turned into a shorter, more narrative and visceral description of the state of the Jamaican penal system. Te report cannot, therefore, provide the kind of comprehensive independent investigation that the state of the Jamaican penal system so demands. However, despite the reduced scope of the project, it was nevertheless possible to gain access to parts of the system which had seemingly not been viewed by independent or critical eyes for some years. Upon touring the institutions, the feeling that the plight of the prisoners should be brought to the wider attention of the public, media, and human rights groups and lawyers was inescapable. It is hoped that the report might draw renewed attention to the conditions in which the vast majority of prisoners in Jamaica are held.


worldbrief/. 7

Statistics from the International Centre for Prison Studies at King’s College London, Report of the Board of Enquiry into Disturbances at the Tower Street Adult Correctional Centre and the St Catherine Adult Correctional Centre

between 20th-23rd August 1997. Te Commissions of Enquiry Act Commission to Enquire into and Report on Recent Incidents at the

St Catherine Adult Correctional Centre on May 21st Trough to May 25th 2000. See also the section on homosexual inmates below. 8

‘Armadale Enquiry – More startling revelations turn up – Two girls were HIV-positive, others had psychotic episodes’, Jamaica Gleaner, 10th September 2009,


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