Shocking Allegations of TCI Prison Abuse!

In prison abuse, prison sexual abuse on February 1, 2008 at 9:11 pm

Turks and Caicos Islands journalist, Gemma Handy, has penned an article arising out of an exclusive undercover investigation into Grand Turk Prison, including shocking allegations that inmates are being beaten, starved and physically and sexually abused!

Shocking excerpts are below-

The facility is home to some 125 inhabitants, about a dozen of whom agreed to be named in the newspaper article despite huge risks to their personal safety.

Stories of sexual assaults, the denial of food and water and indiscriminate beatings by officers are rife. Visitors from the Government, watchdogs and independent committees are shielded from the horror.

To those who say inmates should have considered the consequences before committing their crimes, read on before you judge. Each of the 14 individuals who spoke to us is somebody’s son, daughter, sibling or friend.

The lack of rehabilitative measures in the prison has already been blamed in a damning report for its extortionate recidivism rate. And, as the following revelations show, the appalling treatment is turning many once gentle men into violent and emotionally scarred people.

With 37 more prisoners than the maximum population of 88, the institution is seriously overcrowded. Many of the tiny 8ft by 5ft two-bunk cells house three or even four people with the unlucky newcomers forced to sleep on the floor.

Air conditioning is but a distant memory from a former life in these cramped cages with no ceiling fans or even window screens to keep the ever persistent mosquitoes at bay.

Inmates each possess just one sheet to cover the grotty mattresses despite prison regulations stating each be given two sheets and a pillow.

Many of the men we talked to spoke of starvation as a common form of ‘punishment’ along with physical and sexual attacks by officers while numerous others said they had been repeatedly denied vital medical treatment.

A prison warden, who asked to remain nameless for fear of reprisals, contacted the Weekly News after witnessing first hand the ever increasing barbarism taking place.

“The TCI has a growing crime rate and of course the prison plays an important role but I believe in humane treatment; what is going on there is totally inhumane,” he said.

“I understand the inmates have committed crime and need to be punished but being taken away from society is sufficient.

“Instead they are being starved and beaten. Some have been refused medical treatment because they know the nature of what’s been going on will come out.

“There are some who have become malnourished because they are not being allowed to eat and have lost huge amounts of weight.

“Anyone who speaks out or uses profanity is victimised. It’s reached the point where some of the inmates are about to break. They are becoming more angry, violent and revengeful people.

“This will be very bad for the country; it creates serious problems when they get out as they will take revenge on society.

“I believe it will reach the point where officers start getting attacked. We desperately need an independent body to come and look into the situation.

“The Prison Visiting Committee is not allowed to see inmates like they should and they’re never allowed to be alone with them so they can tell them what’s going on without fear of further punishment.”

Patrick Williams, a Bahamian who has been incarcerated since mid-2005, said he had been left blind in one eye after he was not allowed access to a doctor. He is currently seeking legal action against the prison.

Mr Williams said he had been victimised since starting his law suit last year.

Chato Moore says he was stabbed by a guard who arms himself with a knife, in strict contravention to prison guidelines.

“I was stabbed by an officer after getting into a fight with another inmate. The officer rushed me and grabbed me. I tried to push away from him but he had a knife and jumped me.”

He shows me a knife wound on his arm to support his allegation. Opening his mouth wide, he reveals painfully decaying teeth. He has not seen a dentist since arriving at the prison in 2005.

David Williams, a fellow Turks and Caicos Islander, tells me he has 16 months left of an armed robbery sentence.

His allegations are some of the most chilling. He claims to have been sexually assaulted by an officer and given no food at all for two days.

“There is no running water in my cell; a lot of people in maximum security have no drinking water at all. We are treated worse than a dog.”

“It needs to be stopped before they have a riot on their hands. They need to investigate these people and see how they are spending the Government’s money.

“They are lying to society saying they are rehabilitating us. But if that’s the case why do people keep coming back? They make people so angry that when they get out all they want is revenge.”

Akishna Arthur, a 29-year-old Bahamian inmate locked up for receiving stolen goods, has waived her right to anonymity to give details of a sickening sex attack.

She claims she was assaulted by an officer on November 10 last year.

“Sometimes when I was going to court he would say little fresh things to me when we were alone.

“One day he asked me to help him turn on the lights in the TV room. While I was doing it he approached me from behind. He touched me on my private parts and kissed me.

An 18-year-old inmate says he has not seen daylight in a week despite all prisoners being entitled to an hour’s exercise break a day at the very least.

He is one of two youngsters who, according to prison guidelines which state anyone aged 18 or under should be kept in a juvenile block, are being housed alongside adult offenders.

“It’s miserable, I feel frightened,” he says.

Remand prisoner Casey Stubbs says he has no running water in his cell, again in strict contravention to official rules.

Mr Stubbs says inmates are even forced to throw faeces out of the window when the toilets won’t flush, which is often.

Wilkie Arthur, currently on remand for conspiracy to rob, tells me he studied law during a previous stint inside. These days he acts as inmates’ unofficial legal expert. He lists an abhorrent catalogue of goings-on.

“There are officers carrying knives and other prohibited articles but they never get searched. Inmates have been stabbed but have no means or money to get the information out there.

“We are supposed to have free calls to our lawyers but we have to pay even though we have no income.

“One reason there is such a shortage of food is because the officers take home boxes and boxes of food every time the prison buys in its rations.

“It’s as if they think they’re in a grocery store. They take the chicken, the oxtail, all the meat away.”

“One man tried to drown himself in the water tank in the yard. He banged his head inside it spilling blood.

“It was two hours before they found him. And all that time people had been drinking the water.”

Prison is not intended to be an appealing place, a hangout joint. There is no denying most of the people trapped inside its walls deserve harsh punishment.

Still, if these testimonies are to be believed, the treatment amounts to, at best, a widespread violation of prison rules. At worst, it’s little short of torture.

I ask Mr Arthur what he would like to say to people on the outside who may not be overtly sympathetic to the predicament of one who has been imprisoned for the good of society.

“You have to remember most people here are in for petty crime, theft, burglary. This prison don’t need this sort of harsh treatment, most of the inmates are not violent people.

“Many people on the outside do not have family in prison and never have had so they don’t feel what we are going through.

“Having your liberty taken away is sufficient punishment. The duties of the people in charge are not to double or treble our punishment. They should allow us to do our time in peace.”

In a statement issued to the Weekly News, Governor Richard Tauwhare confirmed a police investigation into the prison had been launched.

Click here for full story.

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