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 and the prison in Cap Haitien, where each prisoner had 4.2 square feet of space. In many 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 other prisons, the cells often were open to the elements or 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. Most prisons had insufficient sewage facilities for their populations.
Prison conditions generally varied by 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 Department of Corrections (DAP) held approximately 500 prisoners in makeshift and unofficial detention centers, such as police stations in Petit-Goave, Miragoane, Gonaives, and some parts of Port-au-Prince. 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 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. Due to lack of space, resources, and oversight outside the capital, authorities sometimes did not separate juveniles from adult prisoners or convicted prisoners from pretrial detainees, as the law requires.
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 nationwide prison population suffered from malnutrition and severe anemia, while sanitation-related diseases, including scabies, diarrhea, and oral infections, were commonplace. Because of the poor security, severe understaffing, and conditions of some detention centers, prison officials did not allow prisoners out of their cells for exercise. In the National Penitentiary, prisoners spent close to an hour outside of confinement, but in all other facilities prisoners only had 15-20 minutes to bathe before returning to their cells.
Prisoners’ access to adequate nutrition remained a problem. The HNP has contractual and fiscal responsibility for the delivery of food to prisons. According to an August 2016 UN report, changes in the contracted food suppliers and delays in fund disbursement reduced the number of meals fed to prisoners. Additionally, human rights groups accused prison officials of corruption by selling food intended for prisoners on the open market. 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.
In the first eight months of the year, 97 inmates died due to illness or malnutrition. Most died from starvation, anemia brought on by malnutrition, tuberculosis, or other communicable diseases. A government commission was created in February to investigate deaths due to prison conditions, but as of November the commission’s findings were not published.
Most detention facilities had only basic clinics for treatment of illnesses and diseases contracted while in custody. Few prisons had the resources to treat serious medical situations. Some very ill prisoners were treated at hospitals outside of prisons, but many hospitals were reluctant to take prisoners, as there was no formal arrangement between the Ministry of Justice and the Ministry of Health regarding payment for treatment. According to statistics from Health Through Walls, an NGO providing health services in the prisons at intake, the prevalence rate of HIV among the prison population was more than eight times higher than the prevalence rate nationally. The intake prevalence rate for tuberculosis was more than 38 times higher than the national rate--more than three times the discrepancy in previous years.
Administration: 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 throughout the country and worked closely with NGOs and civil society groups.
Independent Monitoring: The DAP permitted MINUSTAH, local human rights NGOs, and other organizations to 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: DAP officials created a strategic development plan in April and started a long-needed organizational restructuring process to better respond to inmate needs. The DAP also hosted a business forum in April where several local businesses committed to training prisoners while incarcerated and hiring them upon release.