Prisons and detention centers were severely overcrowded and presented serious threats to life and health.
Physical Conditions: Overcrowding and poor living conditions remained severe problems. With a maximum rated capacity of 4,652 inmates, the corrections system contained approximately 4,000 adult inmates, including at least 200 women and girls. There was considerable overcrowding in particular facilities, since some capacity was unusable due to staffing shortfalls, and because the rated capacity reflected both high- and low-security facilities, and most inmates were held in high-security facilities. Authorities required detainees to provide everything needed for their time in state custody including clothes, soaps, and a water bottle. Although the law prohibits the incarceration of children in adult prisons in most cases, authorities held approximately 25 juveniles in adult jails and kept another 299 juveniles in detention in juvenile-only facilities.
Conditions at the juvenile lock-ups were poor. Investigations into the Moneague, Half-Way Tree, Admiral Town, and Glengoffe juvenile detention facilities revealed that minors reported contracting fungus from the conditions in the cells and from sleeping on cold concrete. Juvenile inmates also complained of roaches crawling over them during the day and at night. At the Admiral Town lock-up, jailers let juveniles out of their cells for only five minutes each day to bathe and use the toilet. At both Admiral Town and Half-Way Tree, the minor inmates were provided with bottles in which to urinate. The Metcalf Juvenile Remand Center in Kingston is a pretrial facility designed to hold a maximum of 208 male juvenile remandees from ages 12 to17. It held 135 boys and provided comprehensive services, including medical and mental health screening, assessment and treatment; counseling and other therapeutic interventions; education and skills training; behavior modification programs, including drug treatment and prevention; sports and recreational activities; and spiritual engagement. There was a classroom and one-on-one instruction at the Metcalf facility.
The Horizon Adult Remand Center, built originally as a warehouse, held 488 inmates, including some of the country’s most hardened criminals, approximately 80 percent of whom had links to criminal gangs. Authorities did not clearly separate detainees according to their different stages of criminal procedure. Persons detained without charges, remandees, and convicted criminals shared the same facility and often shared cells. At the St. Catherine Adult Correctional Institution in Spanish Town, inmates shared dark, unventilated, and dirty cells. Designed to hold 800 inmates, the facility held 1,263. Intended to hold 50 detainees, cell blocks held an average of 138. Police officers at the facility reported that mentally ill detainees were locked in the bathroom of the holding section. Authorities also held some detainees in the prison’s medical facility. Inmates remained in their cells from 3 p.m. to 9 a.m. with no means to address their hygienic needs. They received a slop bucket to use, but administrators strongly encouraged the inmates not to use them. These conditions at times led to violence and serious health problems among prisoners. The superintendent noted the problems, but insufficient resources prevented prisoners from remaining outside their cellsfor a larger portion of the day. Bed bugs also were common.
The Tower Street Adult Correctional Center in downtown Kingston held 1,659 inmates, exceeding the facility’s 800-person maximum intended capacity. Men and women were incarcerated in separate facilities, although female prisoners generally lived in better conditions than their male counterparts. Cells in some facilities had little natural light, inadequate artificial light, sub-par bathroom and toilet facilities, and poor ventilation. Hunt’s Bay lock-up held prisoners in 11 cage-like structures, which were open, in varying degrees, to the elements and the gazes of passersby. Cells were crowded, with up to 10 persons per cell. As a result, cells were often soiled with garbage and urine. Detainees told the local nongovernmental organization (NGO) Jamaicans for Justice (JFJ) that authorities allocated cellmates just15 minutes two to three times a day to bathe, use the bathroom, and fill water bottles. Potable water generally was available, but officials required detainees to provide their own containers to carry water. Male prisoners had limited access to latrine facilities. Between 4:00 p.m. and 7:00 a.m. the following day, the prisoners’ only option was to relieve themselves in a slop bucket. The commissioner of corrections made several attempts to disinfect the facilities and obtain new mattresses for the inmates, but lack of funds hindered his efforts, and the center had to rely on donations to conduct routine disinfectant spraying of mattresses and cells.
The women’s prison, Fort Augusta, with nearly 300 inmates, had no indoor water supply. Inmates obtained water from a central source in containers they provided themselves. In September the government removed all female juveniles from Fort Augusta and transferred them to the renovated South Camp Facility.
Throughout the system medical care was poor, primarily a result of having only three full-time doctors and one full-time nurse on staff. Four part-time psychiatrists cared for at least 225 diagnosed mentally ill inmates in 12 facilities across the island. Prisoners in need of dentures and unable to eat the prison food encountered difficulties gaining access to a dentist. Prison food was poor, and prison authorities frequently ignored inmates’ dietary restrictions. Additionally, only approximately J$200 ($1.92) was budgeted to provide a prisoner three meals per day. At least 14 prisoners died in detention during the year, including 12 from natural causes, one during an altercation with prison guards, and one by hanging. INDECOM’s investigation determined the hanging victim committed suicide.
Allegations of physical abuse of prisoners by guards continued, despite efforts by the government to remove abusive guards and improve procedures. INDECOM investigated all reports of abuse by prison officials.
Administration: The budget for prisons and lockups was inadequate in light of the overwhelming challenges and demands facing the system. Nonviolent youth offenders were under the jurisdiction of the social services agency, which generally sent them to unsecured halfway houses (called “places of safety” or “juvenile remand centers”) after removing them from their homes. Because the law does not clearly define an “uncontrollable child,” authorities classified a large number of minors as uncontrollable and detained them for long periods without regard to the nature of their offenses. In the case of juveniles held in two of the adult facilities, even when police attempted to have officers from the social services agency retrieve minor detainees, the agency failed to do so, thereby obliging the police to comingle them with adults. Authorities trained officers handling juvenile detainees in child psychology, behavioral modification techniques, child-management strategies, and national and international human rights laws.
There was no specific prison ombudsman. Although prisoners could make complaints to the Public Defender’s Office without censorship, and representatives usually could enter the detention centers and interview prisoners without hindrance, official complaints and investigations were infrequent. Authorities permitted prisoners and detainees to receive visitors and attend religious observances.
Independent Monitoring: The government allowed private groups, voluntary and religious organizations, local and international human rights organizations, and the media to visit prisons and monitor prison conditions, and such visits took place during the year.
Improvements: Female juveniles moved to the renovated South Camp facility from Fort Augustus and obtained access to classrooms and courses. The NGO Stand Up For Jamaica worked with prison authorities to provide basic education and vocational training to approximately 700 inmates, including children.