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


However, removing these inmates and isolating them from the general population in order to protect them is something of a double-edged sword. For once he is placed there, an inmate is permanently stigmatised, and unable to participate in the normal daily life of the institution. Te prisoners on the homosexual block do not leave the compound unless for a specific reason, and only if escorted by an officer, for fear they may be attacked.


Te isolation of suspected homosexual inmates, which also takes place at Tower Street Adult Correctional Centre, apparently has its origins in the Jamaican prison riots of August 1997. During the week of 18th


August 1997, 14 prisoners at TSACC died and


40 were seriously injured in one of the most serious prison riots in Jamaican history. Te cause of the riot was an announcement by the Commissioner of Corrections, Lt Colonel John Prescod, that condoms would be issued to officers and inmates in Jamaican prisons in an attempt to control the spread of sexually transmitted diseases. Almost immediately after the announcement was made, prison officers went on strike, offended at what they saw as the inference that there might be sexual relations between male warders and prisoners. Te diminished staff at TSACC were overcome by the inmates, and prisoners suspected to be homosexuals became targets of violence. Te Jamaican Defence Force and Jamaican Constabulary Force had to be called in to help quell the mayhem. In the aftermath of the incident, all known and suspected homosexuals were removed to an isolated part of the prison.23


Te incident is illustrative of the deep-rooted homophobia that runs throughout Jamaican society. Consensual male sexual intercourse remains illegal in the country, and human rights groups regularly document acts of violence and sometimes homicides against gay men.


ii. SCACC: Te Mentally Ill Block


During the early 2000s several high profile legal cases concerning ‘unfit to plead’ inmates who had become ‘lost’ or forgotten in the Jamaican prison system – sometimes for decades – drew attention to the plight of mentally ill inmates on the island. Te cases received widespread media attention, and in 2006 the Criminal Justice (Administration) Act was amended to reform the procedures and safeguards for the treatment of mentally ill persons in the Jamaican criminal justice system.


However, in practice, the fact remains that, while the 2006 Amendments did establish new review requirements, and widen the range of orders available to a court faced with a mentally ill defendant to include ‘admission to a psychiatric facility at the court’s pleasure’, ‘treatment and supervision orders’ and ‘guardianship orders’, due to the lack of psychiatric and care facilities in Jamaica, many of these persons will still find themselves incarcerated


23


See Report of the Board of Enquiry into Disturbances at the Tower Street Adult Correctional Centre and the St Catherine Adult Correctional Centre between 20th -23rd August 1997, Jamaica: Ministry of National Security and Justice, March 1998.


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