Prisons and detention centers throughout the country remained overcrowded, poorly maintained, and unsanitary.
Physical Conditions: Overcrowding was severe, especially in the National Penitentiary, the Petite-Goave jail, and the prisons in Jeremie, Les Cayes, Port de Paix, and Hinche. 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 isolation units for contagious patients. 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. UN observers indicated that approximately 70 percent of prisoners and detainees suffered from a lack of basic hygiene, malnutrition, poor quality health care, and water-borne illness. Because of the poor security and facility conditions, some prisons did not allow prisoners out of their cells for exercise.
The prison system had not recovered from the 2010 earthquake that damaged its principal facilities in Carrefour, Delmas, Arcahaie, and the National Penitentiary in Port-au-Prince. By October authorities had recaptured fewer than 750 of the more than 5,000 detainees who escaped in the earthquake’s aftermath.
The Department of Corrections (DAP), which is part of the HNP, estimated that there were approximately 9,400 prisoners in the country’s jails. By local standards, available prison facilities were operating at 300 percent of their capacity; however, international observers suggested that overcrowding was significantly worse if judged by more stringent international standards. The DAP also estimated that 2,000 to 3,000 prisoners were held in makeshift and unofficial detention centers in police stations such as Petit-Goave, Miragoane, Gonaives, Port-au-Prince, and other locations. The 400 prisoners transferred from the Gonaives and Petit-Goave prisons that flooded in 2010 remained in their temporary facilities. 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 extended periods, without registering them with the DAP.
Corrections authorities in Port-au-Prince maintained separate penitentiaries for adult men and women. MINUSTAH’s corrections advisory unit reported that as of December, 5 percent of prison detainees were female, while 3.4 percent were children. In Port-au-Prince, all males under 18 years of age were supposed to be held at the juvenile facility at Delmas 33, but authorities could not always verify the ages of some detainees given the poor national identification infrastructure and the DAP’s and HNP’s limited resources. As such, a small proportion of minors believed to be older and whose identities authorities could not confirm were at times detained with adults. Authorities moved the vast majority of these minors to the juvenile detention center within two months of having their ages verified. Minors and adults outside of Port-au-Prince often occupied the same cells due to lack of available space. Authorities did not hold girls separately from women at the Petionville Women’s Penitentiary but did keep convicts in a separate cell from pretrial detainees. In areas outside the capital, due to a lack of space, resources, and oversight, authorities often did not segregate juveniles from adult prisoners or convicted prisoners from pretrial detainees, as the law requires.
In some prisons the incidence of HIV/AIDS, malaria, and drug-resistant tuberculosis remained a serious problem. Other common diseases in prisons included scabies and beriberi.
Corrections officers were severely underresourced and lacked basic riot control and self-defense capacity. Access to adequate nutrition remained a problem. The HNP has contractual and fiscal responsibility for the delivery of food to prisons. 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, authorities allowed prisoners regular deliveries of food from relatives, a common practice.
The HNP also managed other service contracts at prisons, such as sewage treatment. Most prisons had insufficient sewage facilities for their populations. However, 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.
Administration: The government did not keep adequate prison records. However, in 2009 the UN Development Program and the government created a database that began to track prison inmates. There was no alternative sentencing for nonviolent offenders. The law permits religious observance in prison, and inmates could request to see a Protestant minister, a Catholic priest, or a Vodou houngan (male leader). In practice most inmates gained access to religious services only once or twice a year. Prisons provided few if any organized, regular religious services, but members of religious organizations occasionally visited prisoners. Prison authorities were supportive of NGOs providing services to prisoners, particularly at the National Penitentiary in Port-au-Prince. NGOs provided limited medical services.
There was no specific prison ombudsman to handle complaints. The Office of the Citizen Protector (OPC) advocated strongly for the rights and better conditions of prisoners, especially juveniles in preventive detention. It also sponsored several small clinics around the nation to bring judges to prisons to focus on adjudicating pretrial detention cases. These clinics resulted in the release of a few dozen prisoners.
Monitoring: The OPC regularly visited prisons and detention facilities in the country’s 18 jurisdictions and worked closely with NGOs and civil society groups. The DAP permitted the International Committee of the Red Cross, MINUSTAH, the prominent local human rights NGO National Human Rights Defense Network (RNDDH), and other organizations to freely monitor prison conditions.
Improvements: The government, with international assistance, sponsored the construction of new prison facilities throughout the country. The government completed a new prison with capacity for 750 inmates in Croix-de-Bouquets that began operating in November. Renovations continued at the prisons in Cap-Haitien, Arcahaie, and Delmas 33 in Port-au-Prince, Petit-Goave, and Fort-Liberte.