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Report on Prison Conditions in Jamaica


TSACC has an infamous local reputation as being overcrowded and dangerous. It has seen several incidents of unrest in recent years, including being the prime focus of the terrible prison riot of 1997, during which several inmates died.15


However, possibly due


to the attention that the death penalty has drawn towards SCACC, TSACC has not always received as high a degree of scrutiny from both international and local human rights groups.


3. Conditions Death Row


Te use of the death penalty has been severely curtailed in Jamaica over the last 15 years, due to a series of Privy Council judgments placing procedural restrictions on its deployment. Most recently, the number of condemned men at SCACC fell dramatically following the 2004 decision in Lambert Watson that the mandatory death penalty for capital murder was unconstitutional.16


Following the judgment, every condemned


inmate was re-sentenced under discretionary criteria. Including the re-sentencing, very few sentences of death have been passed since. At the time of the visit to SCACC there were eight male inmates on death row, five of whom had recently had their sentences commuted to life imprisonment by the Governor General,17 off the section once the requisite formalities had been completed.


and were due to be taken


Death row at SCACC is located towards the centre of the institution’s grounds, in the two-storey Gibraltar building, which was built in 1898. Viewed from the outside Gibraltar is a long and thin grey stone block, with a dilapidated slanting corrugated zinc roof. It is divided into four cellblocks, Gibraltars 1 and 2, which are the first and ground floor blocks on the north side, and 3 and 4, their counterparts on the south side. Gibraltars 3 and 4 are used as standard accommodation for determinate and life sentence prisoners. Te building originally consisted of just two blocks, on the ground and first floor; but horizontal walls built to halve the length of the corridors and to isolate those prisoners who were sentenced to death later separated the north and south sides of the block. Prior to the decision in Lambert Watson, death row inmates were housed on both Gibraltar 1 and 2. However, the substantial fall in numbers of condemned men at SCACC, combined with the pressures of overcrowding at the institution, has meant that Gibraltar 2 (the ground floor) is now used as a ‘punishment block’ instead. Nevertheless the two north blocks remain fenced into their own compound, with a small exercise area to the left, and a staircase running outside the front of the building from one floor to another.


Having each served over five years on death row, according to the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council’s decision in Pratt and Morgan v Attorney General of Jamaica [1994] 2 AC 1.


15 16 17


20 See the section below on homosexual inmates. For instance, at the end of March 2004 there were 43 inmates sentenced to death at SCACC.


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