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Report on Prison Conditions in Jamaica


Safekeeping


We came across a number of detainees in HARC who had overstayed their visas or were illegally in Jamaica, and had been removed to the remand centre for ‘safekeeping’. Adult females were housed with the juvenile female population, and males were placed in cells with remandees. In one male remand cell, the Jamaican detainees urged us strongly to seek legal assistance for a man of South Asian origin who spoke no English and whose country had no consular presence on the island. Had this man not found himself housed with such benevolent cell mates, he could have been very vulnerable indeed to abuse. It was unclear how long this category of persons faced being incarcerated. Some had already been at HARC for several weeks, if not months, and several complained that they had not been allowed proper consular access.


Under subsection 15(4) of the Aliens Act of 1946, persons in respect of whom a deportation order has been made46


can be detained in such a manner as the Minister


of National Security may direct. However, the practice of detaining for breach of immigration law in a remand centre such as HARC, with all the requisite suffering that entails, raises serious questions of compatibility with human rights law, as well as prison standards. Again it is urged that a review take place of the practice of ‘safekeeping’ and that such detainees should be housed in a facility altogether more suitable to their needs and legal status. At the very least they should be separated from the general Jamaican remand and juvenile prison populations.


Conclusion


No statistics are available on the average time spent on remand in Jamaica. However, we came across several detainees who had been awaiting trial for several years. One informed us that he had been detained on a murder charge for over five years. Tis astonishing length of time must be set in context of the terrible conditions suffered by the inhabitants of HARC. To spend five years awaiting trial, locked down 24 hours a day with five other men in a dark, dirty, and incredibly hot cell, with a broken toilet and no running water is wholly intolerable in any criminal justice system. Te detainees of HARC are being denied their most basic human rights. Te dilapidated state of the building is quite incredible, given that it was only opened in 2002. Te structure is in urgent need of refurbishment, with the lack of electricity and ventilation, and the state of the bathrooms all being of particular concern.


Indeed, if the conditions at HARC were to be improved, it might be that the facility could be further used to alleviate the pressure on the wider penal system. Te reasons for


46 Or in respect of whom a certificate is given by a court with a view to the making of a deportation order. 50


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