curbcrime

Update on TCI Prison Abuse Allegations

In prison abuse, prison sexual abuse, restorative justice on February 13, 2008 at 4:49 am

The Turks and Caicos Sun newspaper has recently published an article in which it has quoted Superintendent of the Grand Turk Prison, Peter White, as strongly denying allegations made and published in the press about prisoner abuse behind the prison walls.

Mr. White made the statements at a press conference on Tuesday February 5th at the prison. Others in attendance at the press conference included Premier Dr Michael Misick, Governor H.E Tauwhare, Minister of Health Dr Lillian Boyce and Minister of Home Affairs Galmo Williams.

The Superintendent outlined the official process for treating with inmate medical complaints, the serving of meals to inmates and instances of physical injury to inmates. However, he did not indicate whether these official procedures are followed in every case.

Earlier that morning, the delegation was joined by Permanent Secretary for Prisons, Mr. Terry Smith, in an official tour of the penal facility and heard from some of the inmates regarding the situation at the prison.

Speaking at the press conference, the Premier expressed his support for the work of the Superintendent and prison staff under what he admitted were trying circumstances. He further assured the nation that the Government would address some of the shortcomings of the prison service in the upcoming budget. One specific area of mention by the Premier was the effort to ensure that no more than 2 persons shared a prison cell.

At present, there are instances where there are three inmates in a cell. However, there is ongoing construction of new buildings to resolve overcrowding. The kitchen facility will also be relocated to this building, thus freeing up space to create more cells. The building is being erected outside the prison enclosure and the kitchen prepares three meals per day, although occasionally ingredients for special diets may not always be available.

The Superintendent reported that educational, medical and counselling facilities have been built, which only await fencing in order to be operational. There will also be a complete learning centre, with state of the art computers, with a full time teacher having been hired to run it. However, no definite time frame for the completion of the outstanding works was oferred.

Governor H.E Richard Tauwhare, in his remarks, assured the public that a full scale investigation has been launched into the media allegations and the findings will be made public as soon as available. He indicated that, so far, the police have interviewed 11 inmates, and they have found no evidence to support the allegations of abuse.

The Governor also announced that the Prison Visiting Committee, chaired by Mr. Huntley Forbes, has undertaken an inquiry into the allegations that is independent of the Superintendent of Prisons, and the Governor.

He did confirm that the police are investigating how journalist, Gemma Handy, gained what he said was unauthorized access to prison inmates and that she could face criminal prosecution for doing so. This investigation and possible prosecution was reported in an earlier blog entry.

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