Prisons and detention centers throughout the country remained overcrowded, poorly maintained, and unsanitary.
Physical Conditions: Prison and detention center overcrowding was severe, especially in the National Penitentiary; the Petionville women’s prison; the Petit-Goave jail; and the prisons in Jeremie, Les Cayes, Port de Paix, and Hinche. Only the newly constructed prison in Croix des Bouquets conformed to international norms and was not significantly overcrowded, albeit already slightly over capacity. Others, including the detention facilities in Port-au-Prince, Cap Haitien, Fort Liberte, Mirabalais, Jacmel, Hinche, Les Cayes, Anse-a-Veau, and Port de Paix, exceeded the UN’s prescribed capacity of 2.5 square meters (27 square feet) per inmate. 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. In others the cells often were open to the elements and lacked adequate ventilation. Many prison facilities lacked basic services such as plumbing, sanitation, waste disposal, medical services, potable water, electricity, and isolation units for contagious patients. A newly operational sanitation block in the Les Cayes prison contained nine showers and 10 toilets serving a population of 572 inmates as of October. Some prison officials used chlorine to sanitize drinking water, but in general prisoners did not have access to treated drinking water.
International observers indicated prisoners and detainees continued to suffer from a lack of basic hygiene, malnutrition, poor quality health care, and water-borne illness. An estimated 10 percent of the prison population suffered from malnutrition and severe anemia, while sanitation-related diseases, including scabies, diarrhea, and oral infections, were commonplace across the inmate population. In several prisons the Department of Corrections (DAP) and the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) provided personal hygiene kits; in many others, inmates’ families provided them. Because of the poor security, severe understaffing, and conditions of some detention centers, some prisons did not allow prisoners out of their cells for exercise. From October 2013 to July, DAP authorities recorded 44 inmate deaths across the West Department, which includes the large National Penitentiary and Croix-des-Bouquets sites, as well as the Petionville women’s facility and Delmas 33 juvenile facility. The majority of deaths were due to heart failure, severe anemia, and strokes, although five were due to HIV/AIDS and three to tuberculosis.
While some detention facilities contained clinics for treatment of illnesses and diseases contracted while in custody, many did not. Few prisons had the resources to treat serious medical situations. In some prisons the incidence of HIV/AIDS and malaria remained a serious problem, although the programs of several NGOs, international organizations, and donor countries continued to reduce the incidence of these diseases. Other common medical problems in prisons included scabies, beriberi, and a small number of cases of confirmed drug-resistant tuberculosis. The National Penitentiary and Cap Haitien prisons experienced small-scale outbreaks of cholera early in the year, affecting approximately 50 prisoners. Both outbreaks were quickly contained but resulted in two prisoners’ deaths.
Prison conditions generally varied by inmate gender. Female inmates in coed prisons enjoyed proportionately more space in their cells than their male counterparts, but women at the Petionville women’s prison, like men at mixed-gender prison facilities, occupied less than 11 square feet of cell space per person. Female prisoners also enjoyed a better quality of life than did their male counterparts due to their smaller numbers, which wardens suggested was a contributing factor to their ease of control. Access to water and adequate plumbing was a problem at the women’s prison, which had no flushing toilets, and where one pit latrine served 284 inmates.
The DAP, which is part of the HNP, estimated that there were approximately 10,400 prisoners in the country’s jails as of August. The DAP also held prisoners in makeshift and unofficial detention centers, such as police stations in Petit-Goave, Miragoane, Gonaives, some parts of Port-au-Prince, and other locations. 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, women, and minors. Government reports suggested that, as of July, approximately 4 percent of prison detainees were female and 2 percent were children. In Port-au-Prince all male prisoners under 18 years of age were to be held at the juvenile facility at Delmas 33, but due to the lack of sufficient documentation, authorities could not always verify the ages of detainees. At times authorities detained minors believed to be older and whose ages could not be confirmed with adult inmates. Authorities moved the vast majority of these minors to juvenile detention centers within two months of verifying their ages. Outside Port-au-Prince minors and adults often occupied the same cells due to lack of available space. Authorities did not hold girls separately from women at the Petionville women’s prison but separated convicts from pretrial detainees when possible. Due to lack of space, resources, and oversight outside the capital, authorities often did not segregate juveniles from adult prisoners or convicted prisoners from pretrial detainees, as the law requires.
Corrections officers were severely underresourced and lacked basic riot control and self-defense capacity. Prisoners’ access to adequate nutrition remained a problem. The HNP has contractual and fiscal responsibility for the delivery of food to prisons. Some prisons had kitchen facilities and employed persons to prepare and distribute food. 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 and friends. Human rights groups reported that families sometimes paid prison staff to deliver supplemental meals and clothing to prisoners.
The HNP also managed other service contracts at prisons, such as sewage treatment. Most prisons had insufficient sewage facilities for their populations. Since only one HNP central office handled all contracts for law enforcement and prisons, attention to sewage problems often was lacking.
In August there was a large prison break at the Croix-des-Bouquets prison, the first major event of its kind since the post-2010 earthquake escape at the National Penitentiary. More than 300 prisoners of the facility’s 900 total, including accused kidnapper Clifford Brandt, escaped in what authorities claimed to be an orchestrated event, potentially facilitated by DAP officers at the prison. Authorities noted, however, that insufficient staffing at the prison also appeared to have been a factor. As of September HNP authorities had recaptured approximately 70 of the escapees, including Brandt, and 30 officers had been detained pending an administrative investigation.
Administration: The government did not keep adequate prison records. In 2009 the UN Development Programme (UNDP) and the government created a database that began to track prison inmates. Its effectiveness was limited because the UNDP system was not completely compatible with the internal HNP recordkeeping system. All prisons utilized only handwritten paper files to document and manage inmates. The DAP, however, began using donor-provided portable biometric devices to register certain incoming inmates with the centrally managed database at the Judicial Police. There was no alternative sentencing for nonviolent offenders.
Prison authorities generally allowed prisoners and detainees access to visitors, but in May, after the highly publicized arrest of Rony Thimothee, spokesman for the opposition coalition Patriotic Force for the Respect of the Constitution (FOPARK) (see section 1.d.), opposition senator Moise Jean-Charles, and several FOPARK members were denied access to visit Thimothee in prison. In response to the incident, the HNP conducted an investigation, and on June 26, the offending prison guard was suspended without pay for 40 days.
The law permits religious observance in prison, and inmates could request to see a Protestant minister, a Catholic priest, or a Vodou houngan (religious 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 prison ombudsman to handle complaints; however, the country’s independent human rights monitoring body, the Office of the Citizen Protector (OPC), maintained a presence at several prison facilities and advocated for the rights and better conditions of prisoners, especially juveniles in preventive detention.
Independent 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 ICRC, MINUSTAH, local human rights NGOs, and other organizations to freely monitor prison conditions. These institutions and organizations investigated allegations of abuse and mistreatment of prisoners, resulting several times in the improvement of their situations.
Improvements: The minister delegate for Human Rights and the Fight against Extreme Poverty, Marie Carmelle Rose Anne Auguste, continued to conduct several needs assessments in various prisons throughout the country. Her office, working in coordination with the DAP, provided clothing, toilet tissue, cups, bowls, forks, pillows, and hygiene kits to prisoners, as well as beds and reinforced tables and chairs for reading and writing workshops to inmates at the National Penitentiary.
Construction of new 200-, 150-, and 300-bed prison facilities in Cabaret, Petit-Goave, and Fort Liberte respectively, continued during the year. The government, in collaboration with international donors, completed renovations at the existing prison in Cap Haitien and the juvenile detention center at Delmas 33 in Port-au-Prince.