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Report on Prison Conditions in Jamaica


2. Methodology


Te report was conceived following previous work undertaken intermittently between 2002 and 2005 with death row prisoners in Jamaica. Having developed a research proposal and received funding from the Human Rights Lawyers Association, I travelled to Jamaica and worked out of Te Jamaican Council for Human Rights (1998) Limited (IJCHR) for the month of August 2009.


Upon arrival, permission was sought from the Department of Correctional Services to undertake a project examining the conditions of detention in the island’s penal facilities, in light of Jamaica’s domestic and international legal obligations. A copy of the research proposal and covering letter explaining the nature of the project were sent to the then Commissioner of Corrections, June Spence-Jarrett.


I had previously been advised that any application for permission to access the island’s penal facilities would be more likely to succeed if I waited until I arrived on the island to make it. However, while this approach eventually proved successful, it had the result that it was not possible to gain the permission until my final week working in Kingston. Many hours were spent on hold on the telephone being passed between various officials in the Department of Correctional Services and the Ministry of National Security in the first three weeks of August 2009 attempting to chase up the proposal. On one occasion I arrived at the Commissioner of Corrections Office for a scheduled appointment only to be told after an hour of waiting that she was not there. I was referred to a different official in a different department and put on hold so many times that the project began to feel like a Jamaican version of a Kafka novel.


On Friday 21st August 2009, as a result of intervention by Nancy Anderson, Legal Officer


at the IJCHR, and Major Richard Reese, a former Commissioner of Corrections and the then Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of National Security, an official fax was received from the Commissioner granting permission for daylong visits the following week to each of the island’s three largest penal institutions.


Te delays in securing access and time restrictions, coupled with the extent of the access eventually granted, meant that the scope of the project was greatly curtailed. It was not, for instance, possible to visit the adult women’s prison at Fort Augusta, the inland medium security facilities of Richmond Farm and Tamarind Farm, any of the island’s juvenile detention centres, or the local remand police lockups. Nor was it possible to analyse in any significant depth the quality of medical and dietary provision at the institutions visited. While making observations as to the latter, this report therefore focuses chiefly on the physical conditions in which the majority of adult male Jamaican inmates are housed.


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