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Report on Prison Conditions in Jamaica


Confinement in these conditions is in clear breach of Rule 31 of the SMR. While section 35 of the Corrections Act does authorise the punishment of prisoners by solitary confinement for up to 90 days, it was surely not envisaged to permit detention in the appalling conditions on the ‘security block’, which, it is submitted, constitute inhuman and degrading treatment or punishment, regardless of the duration for which they are inflicted. Further, it does not appear that the prisoners were ever afforded the opportunity to make a defence, and whether or not the Commissioner had authorised the punishment, as required, was uncertain.


Vulnerable Inmates


Tis section will describe the conditions in which homosexual inmates and those suffering from mental illness are held in SCACC. As regards TSACC, ‘homosexual inmates’22 are held in very similar conditions there, in a separate block isolated from the main population. Te mentally ill at TSACC are housed in the ‘George Davis Centre’, a special area separated from the main area of the prison. Te area has a large garden, in which the inmates grow produce, and its own dormitory. Te conditions are far superior to those at SCACC which are described below. Nevertheless, the mentally ill inmates at TSACC who are too vulnerable to sleep in the dormitory remain in a dark and unclean cell block, without beds, in similar conditions to the general population. Te mentally ill inmates at TSACC are also just as likely to be unconvicted as their counterparts at SCACC. An officer there specifically identified one inmate who had never been convicted of a crime yet had been incarcerated at the prison for 39 years.


i. SCACC: Homosexual Inmates


Number 1 Block lies in an isolated position at the edge of the institution’s grounds, separated from the other cell blocks by a grassy area in front of the medical centre. Tis isolation is no coincidence, for Number 1 Block is used to hold the most vulnerable – and the most stigmatised – of the prisoners at SCACC: those labeled homosexual, and the mentally ill.


Many of the inmates housed on the east side of the block are not necessarily practicing homosexuals. Correctional officers stated that many are merely suspected to be homosexual, either by other inmates or by the prison authorities. Some may be merely shy, effete, vulnerable – or just different. Many have been shunned or attacked in the general population, and as a result removed to the section for their own protection. Te Overseer described the section as something of a refuge.


Inverted commas are used here to reflect the fact that many of the inmates housed on the block may not actually be practising homosexuals, as explained below.


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