Cablegate: Jamaica: Un Special Rapporteur Condemns Prison Conditions,


DE RUEHKG #0260/01 0561607
O 251605Z FEB 10



E.O. 12958: N/A



1. (U) Jamaica's detention facilities are "inhumane" and "reflect a
complete disrespect for human dignity," according to Manfred Nowak,
the United Nations (UN) Special Rapporteur on Torture and Other
Cruel and Inhuman Treatment. Nowak, who had been invited by the
Government of Jamaica (GOJ) to assess conditions in the nation's
jails, prisons, and remand centers, also noted that lengthy
pre-trial detentions are too common while juvenile offenders are
too often housed in adult facilities. Although he found no
evidence of officially-sanctioned torture, Nowak described a system
in which corporal punishment against prisoners was common. End

Prebriefings for GOJ and Diplomatic Community

--------------------------------------------- ------------------

2. (SBU) Manfred Nowak, an Austrian human rights lawyer and
professor at the University of Vienna operating under a mandate
from the UN Secretary General, visited Jamaica with a team from the
UN's High Commission for Human Rights from February 12-19 on the
invitation of the GOJ. In a preliminary briefing to
representatives of the diplomatic community prior to his February
19 press conference in Kingston, Nowak told those in attendance
that he had debriefed representatives of the GOJ on his findings
that morning, including representatives of the Ministry of National
Security (MNS), the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Foreign Trade
(MFAFT), and the Ministry of Justice (MOJ). The UN investigative
body had been invited to Jamaica on a fact-finding mission to
investigate allegations of torture, and had received the full
cooperation of the GOJ. Nowak and his colleagues had requested and
received complete freedom of movement in visiting facilities, to
which they had arrived unannounced, and had been allowed to speak
with whomever they wished. Once their preliminary report is
completed, it will be submitted to the GOJ for review and comment
then submitted to the UN High Commission for Human Rights in
October 2010.

3. (SBU) Nowak noted that he had found no evidence of widespread or
state-sanctioned torture - the intentional delivery of pain for a
specific purpose - in Jamaica's detention facilities.
Nevertheless, Nowak condemned the general level and atmosphere of
violence he had observed in the facilities he'd visited, as well as
the violent methods employed by law enforcement and wardens against
prisoners and detainees. Having visited a number of penal
institutions, including facilities for men, women, and juveniles,
Nowak described the conditions he'd observed as reflecting "a
complete disrespect for the human dignity of persons in conflict
with the law." Nowak's report paints a picture of a penal system
characterized by repression, violence, corporal punishment, dank
and dehumanizing conditions, and in which drugs, cell phones,
weapons, and women were easily available to inmates for a price.
Perhaps most disturbingly, Nowak noted, was that in many cases
minor offenders were housed in the same facilities as hardened
adult criminals.

"Degrading Conditions" in Police Lockups

--------------------------------------------- ---------

4. (SBU) Under Jamaican Qw, suspects arrested by the Jamaica
Constabulary Force (JCF) on suspicion of having committed a crime
are to be held for no more than 24 to 48 hours before seeing a
judge, at which point they should be released on bail pending
trial, transferred to a remand center to await trial, or released
for lack of evidence. In practice, however, many spend months or

even years in such facilities due to administrative backlogs and an
overburdened judiciary. In the most egregious cases, suspects have
been known to have become "lost in the system" and to spend as many
as five years in lock-ups or remand centers awaiting trial (Note:
In one case, a 64 year old charged with a 2007 domestic dispute
with his son had spent two years in a Spanish Town lock-up awaiting
trial; the clerk of courts had advised that judicial proceedings
were on hold pending the receipt of a medical certificate from the
Kingston Public Hospital. End Note). Nowak described conditions
at such lock-ups as "degrading," with as many as three prisoners
housed in cells designed for one, poor ventilation, inadequate
lighting, insect and rodent infestations, and few or no toilet
facilities. The JCF personnel in charge of these lock-ups were not
trained or equipped to maintain long-term facilities.

5. (SBU) Conditions at remand centers and prisons were somewhat
better, Nowak noted, with more space and better lighting, although
they were still generally inadequate. Food and water quality was
poor, and Nowak described high levels of frustration among the
prisoners and remanded suspects with whom he met over what they
perceived as "arbitrary rules" imposed by wardens. In most cases,
Nowak found that detainees had no knowledge of or trust in any
complaints mechanisms available to them.

Allegations of Brutality in Horizon Uprising

--------------------------------------------- ------

6. (SBU) At Kingston's Horizon Remand Centre, where inmates rioted
on February 9, 2010, over water shortages, JCF and Jamaica Defence
Force (JDF) personnel called in were accused of using excessive
force in quelling the disturbances. Afterwards, the UN team
collected forensic evidence and interviewed those injured in the
riots. Derek Pounder, a British physician and forensic specialist
on Nowak's team, reported that several Horizon inmates displayed
"defensive-type" injuries, typically serious bruising or fracturing
to the mid-forearms, suggesting that they'd been beaten while
defenseless and attempting to protect their heads and torsos.
Several inmates with whom the UN team met alleged that the Horizon
wardens had used metal pipes to beat prisoners during the uprising,
indicating "the use of force [that] can only be described as
excessive." Nowak attributed the uprising to frustrations arising
from the harsh conditions and humiliations inflicted on inmates by
wardens, and suggested that the Horizon wardens, rather than
attempting to restore order, had instead used the uprising as an
opportunity to take out their frustrations and to inflict
punishment on troublesome inmates. Afterwards, representatives of
the Office of the Public Defender (OPD) were denied permission to
enter the facility to meet with inmates, and were only subsequently
allowed to do so when Prime Minister (PM) Bruce Golding ordered the
center's administration to comply. (NOTE: Some media reports
suggested that the uprisings were also fueled by new security
measures to curtail smuggling of contraband into the facility. End

Prisons Overcrowded and Outdated

--------------------------------------------- --

7. (SBU) The UN team also visited Kingston's Tower Street Prison,
built in the 19th century to house 650 prisoners but now housing as
many as 1700. Nowak described Tower Street as not conducive to the
correctional and rehabilitation objectives of modern prison
facilities, and not suitable for retrofitting. In Tower Street as
well as other prisons, garrison "dons" operate criminal enterprises
with impunity and often exercise more power than the wardens
themselves. Wardens and guards also may be drawn into such
criminal networks, serving as conduits for drugs, cell phones,
weapons, ganja, and even women to inmates. Nevertheless, despite
overcrowding and an atmosphere of violence, corruption, and
arbitrariness, Nowak noted that the prison's management was "doing

their best" under difficult circumstances.

8. (SBU) Dr. Pounder pointed out that 147 of Tower Street's 1600
inmates suffered from mental illnesses because there were no secure
psychiatric facilities in which to house and treat them. Instead,
a part-time psychiatrist visits just three times a week. With such
inadequate treatment programs in the harrowing conditions
described, it is virtually certain that mentally-ill inmates will
see their conditions worsen during their incarcerations.

Better Conditions in Women's Detention Facilities

--------------------------------------------- ----------------

9. (SBU) The UN team found conditions at lock-ups, remand centers,
and prisons for women to be generally better than those for men.
Nowak described the Fort Augusta Adult Correctional Centre, a
former British fort constructed in the 1740s that now houses as
many as 280 female inmates, as a much cleaner and more humane
institution, although the failure to separate juveniles from adult
prisoners during the day remains problematic. These findings,
Nowak noted, demonstrated that improving Jamaica's detention
facilities was possible so long as there was the political will to
do so.

Mixed Findings in Juvenile Centers


10. (SBU) In May 2009, a fire broke out at the overcrowded Armadale
Juvenile Correctional Centre when police threw a tear gas canister
into a locked dormitory to quell an inmate uprising. Seven girls
died and dozens were injured as a result of the fire, and Armadale
was subsequently closed. Nevertheless, Nowak described Armadale's
replacement, Diamond Crest near Manchester, as a "best practices"
model with good rehabilitation facilities. (NOTE: Nowak had not
yet visited Armadale, but noted that the use of tear gas to control
children had been clearly inappropriate. The GOJ appointed a
Commission of Enquiry to investigate the Armadale fire, and its
report is due in the coming days. Portions of the report have been
leaked to the media and the inquiry already has resulted in the
resignation of Alison Anderson-McLean, the embattled head of the
Child Development Agency. End Note).

11. (SBU) However, Nowak painted a much different picture in regard
to juvenile facilities for boys. At the St. Andrew Juvenile Centre
for Boys in Stony Hill, near Kingston, Nowak described a
"disastrous" and "disturbing" system of repression and corporal
punishment in which the boys, most of whom were between the ages of
12 and 17, were "never allowed to leave the buildings, depriving
them of any recreational activities in the open air." Under
Jamaican law, "uncontrollable" children may be remanded to
correctional facilities for up to three years, although Nowak noted
that the GOJ's legal definition of "uncontrollable" was weak.



12. (SBU) Nowak's team made a number of recommendations to the GOJ,
many of which he felt had been positively received, and encouraged
the international donor community to support the GOJ in its reform
efforts. Among these recommendations were that :

a. Suspects should be held in police custody for no more than
the statutory 24-48 hours before being released on bail or sent to
remand centers;

b. The GOJ should build and utilize more remand centers, as
well as administer them under an authority separate from the JCF or
the Department of Corrections;

c. No juveniles should be housed in detention centers for


d. Establishment of an independent authority to investigate
allegations of JCF misconduct;

e. Reforms in correctional and judicial systems.



13 (SBU) Although not unexpected, the UN Special Rapporteur's
critiques of Jamaica's detention centers were harsh and quite
damning. Nowak attributed the failure to find evidence of torture
to two related factors: the professionalism of the Jamaican
judicial system, which he contends would refuse to accept evidence
and confessions collected through torture; and the propensity for
extrajudicial killings by the JCF, by which a police officer with
insufficient evidence to charge a suspect with a crime might be
more inclined to murder said suspect than to elicit evidence
through torture that might then be disallowed in court.
Nevertheless, Nowak recommended that the GOJ criminalize the
practice under domestic law and ratify the UN Convention Against
Torture and Other Cruel, Degrading Treatment or Punishment.

14. (SBU) Nowak also urged the GOJ and society as a whole to take
steps to de-escalate the "cycle of violence" that both drives, and
is exacerbated by, Jamaica's pervasive atmosphere of violence.
With one of the highest murder rates in the world, escalating
levels of violent crime, and rising incidences of extrajudicial
police killings, violence is ever present in Jamaica's
neighborhoods, news media, and popular culture. In response, a
frustrated public demands harsher responses and reprisals from law
enforcement and government. Parliamentary proposals to institute
flogging and to impose the death penalty are popular with voters
(NOTE: Jamaica's death penalty, last imposed in 1988, has proven
difficult to implement given a Privy Council ruling that limited
prisoners to no more than five years on death row. Given the slow
pace of the Jamaican judicial system, death row inmates can
routinely "time out" through well-timed appeals. End Note), while
Minister of National Security Dwight Nelson drew choruses of
support in 2009 for his denunciations of human rights groups and
public support of JCF officers accused of extrajudicial killings
(NOTE: Under pressure from the Prime Minister and the diplomatic
community, Nelson subsequently apologized for his comments. Reftel
A. End Note). However, Nowak maintains that such rhetoric and
such policies only result in further escalation of the violence
that has proven so devastating to Jamaican society. End Analysis.

© Scoop Media

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