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. The prison in Croix des Bouquets and the new prisons in Cabaret and Fort Liberte conformed to international norms and were not overcrowded. Others, including the detention facilities in Port-au-Prince, Cap Haitien, Mirabalais, Jacmel, Hinche, Les Cayes, Anse-a-Veau, and Port de Paix, exceeded the UN’s prescribed capacity of 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, adequate ventilation, lighting, and isolation units for contagious patients. Some prison officials used chlorine to sanitize drinking water, but in general, prisoners in older prisons 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. In several prisons the Department of Corrections (DAP) and the International Committee of the Red Cross provided personal hygiene kits; in many other facilities, inmates’ families provided the kits. 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, and many prisoners spent 23 hours a day in confinement.
Many detention facilities did not contain clinics for treatment of illnesses and diseases contracted while in custody. Few prisons had the resources to treat serious medical situations. At intake, the prevalence rate of HIV among the prison population was 64 percent higher than the prevalence rate nationally. The intake prevalence rate for tuberculosis was more than 12 times higher than the national rate. The programs of several NGOs, international organizations, and donor countries, however, continued to reduce the incidence of these diseases in the prison population.
Prison conditions generally varied by inmate gender. Female inmates in coed prisons received proportionately more space in their cells than their male counterparts. Female prisoners also experienced a better quality of life than did their male counterparts due to their smaller numbers.
The DAP estimated there were 11,600 prisoners in the country’s prisons as of June. In addition the DAP held some 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. 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 they could not confirm, 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. The new women’s prison in Cabaret had the capacity to hold 300 detainees, and in October it held 254 prisoners, including 17 minors. 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.
Prisoners’ access to adequate nutrition remained a problem. The HNP has contractual and fiscal responsibility for the delivery of food to prisons. According to a UN report, changes in the contracted food suppliers and delays in fund disbursement reduced the number of meals fed to prisoners. 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. 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.
Administration: The government did not keep adequate prison records. The effectiveness of a 2009 database created by the UN Development Program (UNDP) and the government was limited because the UNDP system was not completely compatible with the internal recordkeeping system. Prisons utilized only handwritten paper files to document and manage inmates. There was no alternative sentencing for nonviolent offenders.
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, and investigated credible allegations of inhuman conditions. The OPC regularly visited prisons and detention facilities in the country’s 18 jurisdictions and worked closely with NGOs and civil society groups.
Independent Monitoring: The DAP permitted the International Committee of the Red Cross, 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 Ministry of Justice and Public Security, with assistance from international partners, opened two new prisons that conformed to international norms. In January a new women’s prison opened in Cabaret with a design capacity of 300 inmates. It is equipped with classrooms, detention cells with toilets, a health clinic, and a solar power system.
The new prison in Ft. Liberte was inaugurated in August. It had the capacity to hold 600 detainees and had its own clean drinking water supply system and a solar power system.