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Part Two: St Catherine Adult Correctional Centre and Tower Street Adult Correctional Centre


ii. TSACC: ‘Security Block’


Towards the end of my visit to TSACC, I was asked if I wanted to see the ‘security block’, in which prisoners were placed for punishment purposes. Afterwards, having seen the cells, I was actually surprised that my attention was deliberately drawn to it. Along with the mentally ill section at SCACC, the punishment block at Tower Street was the most shocking thing I saw during my visits to Jamaican prisons.


In order to enter the block, one passes through a spacious hallway, presumably used for meetings or activities, which gives absolutely no indication of what is to come next. At the rear of the hallway, two inmates were standing around talking animatedly to correctional officers. As I approached, they were keen to lead me in and show me the atrocious conditions in which they were imprisoned.


Trough a doorway at the rear of the hall lies a small section, where five separate cells can be entered only if one crouches through low short entranceways built into the wall.


Inside is complete blackness. I could not see my hands. Te cell was fairly large, and the minimal amount of light coming from the low entranceway made no difference once one took two steps inside. After some shouting in patois between the prisoners on the section and the correctional officers, the prisoner whose cell it was exited while I remained in the cell. He returned shortly after, lit a piece of newspaper he had retrieved, and threw it into the corner of the cell so that we could see.


Te cell measured 3 by 4 metres. Tere were no windows, and no ventilation whatsoever. A small circular vent around 10 centimetres wide on the back wall of the cell was blocked. Te lit newspaper seemed to have fallen into a disused shower basin in the corner of the cell, suggesting that it had perhaps once had running water, but it was hard to tell in the dim light, despite the fact that the prisoner kept burning more and more paper. Tere was no bedding at all in the cell, save for a piece of dirty cardboard, and it was unbearably hot, far hotter than the standard cell blocks. Te cell was damp, and it was filthy. Te inmate whose cell it was was sweating heavily and barely clothed due to the heat.


Four inmates were housed in these conditions on the ‘security block’. Tey stated that on a good day they would be permitted one and a half hours outside their cells, but more normally they were allowed a quarter of an hour out in the morning, and around twenty minutes in the afternoon, in order to wash, slop out, and find a little time to see some daylight and to exercise. Te inmates had been held in the block for up to two months. Two complained, as at SCACC, that they had not actually been properly informed as to why they were there. Tere was even some suggestion that one of them might have been put there for his own protection, rather than as a punishment.


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