Prisons and detention centers throughout the country remained overcrowded, poorly maintained, and unsanitary. Overcrowding was severe; in some prisons detainees slept in shifts due to lack of space. Some prisons had no beds for detainees, and some cells had no access to sunlight. Many prison facilities lacked basic services such as toilets, medical services, potable water, electricity, and medical isolation units for contagious patients. Prisoners in Les Cayes frequently defecated into plastic bags. Many prisoners and detainees suffered from a lack of basic hygiene, malnutrition, poor quality health care, and illness caused by lack of access to clean water. Some prisons did not allow prisoners out of their cells for exercise.
The prison system had not recovered from the 2010 earthquake that compromised the holding capacity at facilities in Carrefour, Delmas, Jacmel, and the National Penitentiary in Port-au-Prince. Authorities had recaptured only 1,600 of the more than 5,000 detainees who escaped in the wake of the earthquake, which included all 4,215 persons then held at the National Penitentiary.
According to the Department of Corrections (DAP), there were 7,009 prisoners jailed as of December 21, but the human rights nongovernmental organization (NGO) National Network for the Defense of Human Rights (RNDDH) believed there were as many as 7,192. According to local standards, available prison facilities were at 300 percent of their capacity, but by international standards, the prisons were above 500 percent of capacity.
There were also an estimated 2,000 to 3,000 prisoners held in makeshift and unofficial detention centers in police stations such as Petit-Goave, Mirogoane, Petionville, Gonaives, Port-au-Prince, and other locations. Flooding destroyed regular prison facilities in Gonaives and Petit-Goave; as a result, the Gonaives police station held approximately 250 prisoners and the Petit-Goave police station held 150. Prisoners held in these facilities were under the direct control of the HNP and not the DAP. Local authorities held suspects in makeshift facilities, sometimes for days, weeks, or months, without registering them with the DAP. On some occasions authorities eventually released unregistered suspects on their own recognizance or after they allegedly paid bribes to HNP officers.
In some prisons the incidence of preventable diseases such as HIV/AIDS, malaria, and drug-resistant tuberculosis remained a serious problem. An October 2010 cholera outbreak also affected the prisons, and authorities initially restricted access to prisoners from personal visitors, as well as medical and health NGOs, in an attempt to quell the spread of the disease. The RNDDH reported 275 cases of cholera and 60 deaths among prisoners from January to March alone. Other common diseases in prisons included scabies and beriberi.
Access to adequate nutrition remained a problem. In October 2010 the HNP took on contractual and fiscal responsibility for the delivery of food to prisons after discovering corruption and embezzlement in the DAP. Prison authorities generally provided prisoners with one or two meals a day consisting of broth with flour dumplings and potatoes, rice and beans, or porridge. None of the regular meals served to prisoners provided sufficient calories according to medical standards. As a result, prisoners were allowed regular deliveries of food from relatives, a commonplace practice that resumed during the year after authorities lifted the suspension on outside access imposed after the cholera outbreak.
The HNP also managed other service contracts at prisons, such as sewage treatment. Most prisons had insufficient sewage facilities for their populations. As such, their facilities require more frequent service, but with only one HNP central office to handle all contracts for the police, Coast Guard, firefighters, prison workers, and prisoners, attention to sewage problems often was lacking. Prisons generally used well water as a source for drinking and bathing water. Some prison officials used chlorine to sanitize drinking water, but in general prisoners did not have access to treated drinking water.
Corrections officers were severely underresourced and lacked basic riot control and self-defense capacity. Most prisons employed a single guard in a tower above the facility, armed with a 12-gauge shotgun, a close-range weapon not effective in a prison riot or escape attempt.
Corrections authorities in Port-au-Prince maintained separate penitentiaries for adult men and women. Children 16 and older were often confined with adults. Minors and adults usually occupied the same cells due to lack of available space. When space was available, boys were held in a separate cell of the National Penitentiary in Port-au-Prince. All males under 18 years of age were supposed to be held at the juvenile facility at Delmas 33, but the ages of some detainees could not be verified. Girls were not held separately from women at the Petionville Women’s Penitentiary, but convicts were kept in a separate cell from pretrial detainees. UN prison statistics showed that women accounted for approximately 3 percent of convicted prisoners and 5 percent of pretrial detainees at the end of the year. In areas outside the capital, authorities often did not segregate juveniles from adult prisoners or convicted prisoners from pretrial detainees due to a lack of space, resources, and oversight.
The law permits religious observances in prison, and inmates could request to see a Protestant minister, a Catholic priest, or a Vodou (voodoo) leader. However, in practice most inmates gained access to religious services only once or twice a year. Few if any organized, regular religious services were provided at prisons, but there were occasional visits from members of religious NGOs to prisoners. Prison authorities were very receptive to NGOs providing services to prisoners, particularly at the National Penitentiary in Port-au-Prince. NGOs provided limited medical services, and there was a three-week educational program for juveniles in Delmas.
The OPC was an outspoken advocate for prisoners and better prison conditions but rarely pursued individual complaints. The OPC sponsored several small clinics around the nation to bring judges to prisons to focus on adjudicating pretrial detention cases. These clinics had an immediate effect but resulted only in the release of a few dozen prisoners.
The government, with international assistance, sponsored the construction of new prison facilities throughout the country. A new prison with capacity for 750 inmates was completed in Croix-de-Bouquets but was not yet operational at year’s end. Renovations were under way at the prisons in Cap Haitien, Acahie, Delmas 33 in Port-au-Prince, Petit-Goave, and Fort Liberte.
The DAP permitted the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), MINUSTAH, the RNDDH, the OPC, and other organizations to monitor prison conditions.