Conditions in some of the prison system’s eight facilities continued to be harsh.
Physical Conditions: The country’s prisons, with a design capacity for 4,886 inmates, held an average daily population of 3,800. Of those, 1,700 were convicted inmates, and 2,100 were in pretrial or other status. Some prisons suffered from extreme overcrowding, while others were not at full capacity. Authorities reported six prison deaths during the year.
The Port of Spain Prison, designed to hold 250 inmates, held 646 prisoners. Observers often described Port of Spain Prison as having particularly poor conditions, with as many as 10 prisoners kept in 10- by 10-foot cells. Prisoners at the Port of Spain Prison had sufficient access to medical care because the facility is located close to the General Hospital. Medical professionals visited the prison two or three times a week. Prison officials reported that a new prison facility, opened in 2011, allowed them to begin reducing the population in Port of Spain Prison.
Authorities held 50 percent of the prison population in two of the six available prison facilities: the Port of Spain Prison and the Golden Grove Remand Yard. Neither of these facilities had adequate lighting or ventilation. Prisoners at all facilities had access to potable water. Authorities held pretrial detainees separately from convicted prisoners.
Although conditions at the women’s prison were better than those in the Port of Spain men’s prison, the prison occasionally became overcrowded, since it held both women on remand and those serving prison sentences. The daily average female prison population was 190.
Since there is no female youth facility, authorities placed some underage female prisoners in the custody of a Roman Catholic facility and others in a segregated wing of the Golden Grove women’s prison.
Authorities held a daily average of 219 male juveniles separately from adults at the Youth Training Center and held fewer than 23 female juveniles in custody at Golden Grove.
There were 2,200 prison officers. Authorities charged a number of prison officers for offenses including larceny, drug trafficking, possession of marijuana, and smuggling of contraband to prisoners.
The government improved living conditions at the Immigration Detention Center, where authorities initially permitted detainees to be outside only five hours per week and conditions were worse than at the maximum-security prison. Most detainees were illegal immigrants who could not afford the cost of travel to their home country. The center had an intended capacity of 150 and generally held half that number. Men and women had separate facilities.
Administration: The Ministry of Justice has responsibility for the prison service. Prisoner recordkeeping was adequate. Authorities made use of alternative sentencing for some nonviolent offenders and worked to expand alternative sentencing options. In September the judiciary launched the Drug Treatment Court Pilot, which offered an alternative to incarceration for drug-dependent, nonviolent offenders who agreed to treatment.
Prisoners and detainees had reasonable access to visitors and were permitted religious observance. Prison authorities permitted prisoners and detainees to submit complaints to judicial authorities without censorship and request investigations of credible allegations of inhumane conditions. Prisoners could also contact the Office of the Ombudsman, which has the authority to investigate complaints related to the functions and duties of most government departments. However, in no instances did the ombudsman advocate on behalf of prisoners or detainees. Authorities investigated and monitored prison and detention center conditions but did not document the results in a publicly accessible manner.
Monitoring: The government permitted prison visits by independent human rights observers upon approval of the Ministry of National Security.
Improvements: In July the Ministry of Justice took over responsibility for the Prisons Service from the Ministry of National Security. The Ministry of Justice thus has responsibility for the criminal justice process from arrest to release, and the Prisons Service focused on restorative justice and inmate rehabilitation, increased powers for prisons inspectors, improved prison infrastructure, and better working conditions for officers. However, prison officers protested the move due to fears that it could lead to privatizing the Prisons Service and concerns over the ability of the ministry to absorb a new responsibility with its greatly increased administrative requirements.