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Report on Prison Conditions in Jamaica


1. Introduction


SCACC and TSACC are the two largest correctional centres in Jamaica. Whilst SCACC is significantly the older of the two, and the only penal institution on the island to house condemned inmates, the two prisons have much in common. Both have maximum security status, and the general living conditions of prisoners are very similar: inmates are housed most commonly in groups of 3 (but in some cases up to 5), in small cells designed for single occupancy, with no electricity, toilet, or running water. Tere are no windows in the cells, and no beds or bunks. Inmates lucky enough to be provided with a thin sponge mattress simply lay it on the floor, if they can find the space to do so.


Given the relatively narrow nature of this project, after a short introduction to each prison, the two will be described together in this chapter under specific headings regarding the different aspects of prison existence (cell conditions, punishment, rehabilitative schemes, medical treatment, etc). Noteworthy and unique areas or aspects of the two institutions will be referred to and described individually, and where the two institutions differ, this will be pointed out. It is hoped that this format will allow the individual features of each institution to come to the fore, whilst preventing lengthy repetition of the numerous features that SCACC and TSACC share.


2. The Institutions St Catherine Adult Correctional Centre


SCACC is Jamaica’s oldest, and second largest penal facility. It lies on White Church Street, near the heart of Spanish Town, one of Jamaica’s historic colonial capitals. Te prison is flanked to the south by modern shopping arcades, Spanish Town police station, and the bustle of the city. Its northern wall is overlooked by the white tower of Spanish Town cathedral, which peers incongruously over the guard posts and razor wire. On approaching and entering the prison one is struck immediately by its age. St Catherine District Prison was built in 1655 – during the Royal Protectorate of Oliver Cromwell – in order to house up to 320 African slaves who were to be sold on to the island’s plantation owners under the colonial slave trade. Following abolition, in 1840 the prison came under the newly formed administration of Her Majesty’s Prison Department of Jamaica. During both the nineteenth and twentieth centuries additional blocks were added to the initial three built on the site, expanding the official capacity to its current figure of 691 inmates. In 1898 a gallows was erected at SCACC, and the hanging of convicted murderers was moved to the prison. Although the last execution in Jamaica took place in 1988, death row remains at SCACC, as do the gallows, ready in case


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