curbcrime

Prisoners Found Hanging in Trinidad and Tobago Prisons.

In mental health, prison mental health problems, restorative justice on September 5, 2014 at 7:04 am

The second reported suicide within 2 weeks has allegedly occurred in the prison system in Trinidad and Tobago. Each victim was a male inmate, the first serving a sentence and the other on remand for murder.

In each instance, the State failed to fulfil the conditions of the warrant under which it received the individuals and the inmates’ families are left grieving. The first alleged suicide may be linked to unfair treatment the victim may have been receiving at the hands of prison staff. A motive for the latter may be that the victim had become despondent over the slow pace of justice in brining his matter to trial.

While many may see this as “just desserts” for persons convicted and accused of violent crimes, CURB maintains that continuous exposure to situations which instil such a sense of despair in people that they contemplate self-harm ought never to be a hallmark of the penal system in this twin island nation.

Mental health challenges are a known consequence of incarceration. Anticipation of these collateral outcomes and a thorough risk assessment and action plan to address the same must be a feature of any modern corrections system. Some may consider the continued failure to allocate sufficient resources to address these issues as a dereliction of duty or an example of negligent homicide.

A recent determination in Canada after a coroner’s inquest has indicated that corrections officials there were possibly guilty of homicide in the aftermath of the suicide of a female inmate. The decision was accompanied by several recommendations from the civilian panel as to key changes to be made to the system so as to prevent future self-harm incidents. Regrettably, corrections officials have signalled that costly recommendations (though potentially effective to reduce self-harm) may not be implemented.

CURB has been speaking to issues of prison abuse and self harm of inmates for the past 7 years. The lack of interest shown by some prison authorities and policy makers is symptomatic of the lack of interest on the part of members of the public as to the abuses and atrocious conditions which exist behind bars. We consider such attitudes to be myopic and proof of the lack of information as to the correlation between in-prison conditions and public safety.

CURB maintains that the local and global evidence clearly supports our contention that the continued abuse of incarcerated persons and or their exposure to conditions which fail to meet the UN minimum standards for the treatment of prisoners is a catalyst for re-offending. In the past 10 years, the local re-offending rate has purportedly risen from 56% to over 70%.

Just as our hearts are pained for the families of victims of crime, we mourn the loss of these lives entrusted to a failing criminal justice system. It is a travesty of justice for a convicted prisoner for a term of years to not be able to re-enter society upon the expiry of his warrant and a greater travesty for a person accused of an offence to never get his constitutional day in court. We can only hope and pray that the loved ones of these men do not engender a hatred for society and the State to whom they may ascribe blame for the deaths of their incarcerated relatives.

We await the outcome of these instances and wonder whether a Canadian-style legal challenge which holds the State and prison officials accountable for self-harm by inmates may not be needed to spark improvements in the operations of our nation’s prisons.

via Trinidad and Tobago’s Newsday : newsday.co.tt :.

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