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COSTAATT Use of Force Seminar.

In prison abuse, restorative justice on October 31, 2014 at 8:58 am

On 30th October, 2014 the College of Science, Technology and Applied Arts of Trinidad and Tobago (COSTAATT) staged the final of its 2014 public seminars. The seminar focused on the thorny issue of “use of force” by persons in the Police and Prisons Services of Trinidad and Tobago.

The seminar was hosted by COSTAATT’s Department of Criminal Justice and Legal Studies which is the successor body to the Joint Services Staff College (JSSC). The JSSC was established in 1978 and tasked with ensuring that members of the protective services and Defence Force had the necessary professional and technical competencies to manage the agencies which fell under their purview.

Organised by Department Chair, Kirwin Pyle-Williams and moderated by lecturer, Wayne De Landro the seminar took the form of a 6-member panel discussion addressing various aspects of the use of force by police officers, prisons officers and the impact such incidents had on the community, with particular focus on the “crime hotspot” communities of Sea Lots and Laventille.

Panellists included Acting Inspector Espinoza of the Police Service who sits on the Use of Force Committee; Ms. Margaret Sampson-Browne of the Victim and Witness Support Unit; Retired Superintendent of Prisons Martin; CURB President and Attorney-at-Law Adrian Alexander; Criminologist Renee Cummings and Community Activist Hal Greaves.

The presentations were thoroughly researched, professionally delivered and well received by the audience which comprised mainly students of the Department of Criminal Justice and Legal Studies from the various COSTAATT campuses.

CURB’s Adrian Alexander was asked to address the issue of Use of Force in Juvenile Detention facilities and was able to outline to the audience the provisions of the Prisons Rules and the Young Offenders Detention Act and Regulations which cover disciplinary offences and punishments for young male offenders at the Youth Training Centre.

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He compared these provisions with subsequent international instruments such as the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child, the 1990 UN Havana Rules for treating with Juveniles Deprived of their Liberty and the 2008 European Union Guidelines of a similar nature.

In plotting a way forward to bring the Young Offenders Detention Act into the 21st century, Mr. Alexander urged for a phased approach. He advocated for the recruitment and training of officers specifically in youth development, equipping such officers with skill sets to enable them to facilitate restorative justice initiatives to address disciplinary offences which may arise at the institution, and allowing the officers time to master those skill sets by having a parallel system of restorative justice alongside the current punishment structure before phasing out the latter.

During the Question and Answer segment, Mr Alexander was asked why he thinks the restorative justice philosophy had not taken root with the public in Trinidad and Tobago to a great extent.

He replied that the recent Restorative Justice Conference revealed the degree to which there had been a grave misunderstanding of the meaning of key terminology wherein restorative initiatives were mislabelled as restorative justice initiatives. He highlighted that true restorative justice is victim centred and the public would be more responsive to that as a selling point than the past strategies of touting restorative justice principally as a means to reduce crime and re-offending.

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Should Prisons Officers Pay Damages for Beating Inmates?

In prison abuse, restorative justice on October 15, 2014 at 6:06 am

The issue of prisoner abuse in Trinidad and Tobago took a new turn recently. While an historic National Restorative Conference was taking place in Port of Spain, a High Court Judge was adjudicating the award of damages for 2 inmates who had sued the State for injuries sustained during a beating received from prisons officers.

“Justice Frank Seepersad, in delivering a ruling at the Hall of Justice in Port of Spain yesterday in favour of two prisoners who were beaten by officers, said taxpayers were being over-burdened by their money being used to pay such costs”. He opined that prisons officers may not engage in such use of unreasonable force against inmates if they knew that they would be required to pay part or all of the Court’s award of damages.

Seepersad said the time had come for the State to stop “abdicating its responsibilities” and implement prison reform, pointing out there was an urgent need to train and equip officers who, on a daily basis, were required to deal with difficult conditions and operate under “psychological warfare” as they carried out their duties.
He said despite there being talks concerning the abuse of prisoners, there were still inadequacies relating to the implementation of systems to deal with the issue. The judge said proper training of officers might ensure they did not overstep their boundaries when faced with situations where they were met with resistance by inmates, but would instead employ other methods apart from that of unreasonable force.
He added that despite being convicted, prisoners still had their constitutional human rights, saying there was a need for a review of prison rules and even though draft rules were in circulation, the system was still operating under archaic ones. “The urgent implementation of new systems must be done as a matter of urgency,” he said.
In view of the intention of the Ministry of Justice to proceed with the development of a national restorative justice policy, it would be interesting for them to take the initiative to have restorative conferences or circles around these issues. Such interventions would bring together inmates, officers, their respective supporters and key community stakeholders discuss the issues of prisoner abuse and arrive at solutions to repair the harm caused, address causal factors of the officers’ behaviour and develop possible policy and operations changes to reduce the likelihood of future inmate abuses through use of unreasonable force.
While the learned judge may well be correct in his recommendations, we believe that having the Prisons Service and the particular officers participate actively in a discussion of the issues and agree with other stakeholders (including key officials of the Ministry of Justice) as to the way forward would bring genuine change to the prisons for the benefit of officers, inmates, the State and taxpayers alike.
For more on this news item, please see the Trinidad Express article here.

CURB Attends TASER Seminar.

In prison abuse, prison mental health problems, prison sexual abuse on April 7, 2014 at 3:13 pm

Today CURB was represented among a small group of selected attendees at a seminar on the use of TASERS as a non-lethal tool for law enforcement.

After having campaigned for the end of sexual and physical abuse of prison inmates and detainees for several years, we were interested to hear how TASERS could be incorporated into the prison settings to reduce the extent of physical harm occasioned to inmates.

The seminar took place at A&E Tactical in Trincity Industrial Estate. In addition to CURB, other invited guests were from WINAD (which has been doing excellent work to address the proliferation of small arms in the country), COSTATT’s criminal justice and law lecture team, Chamber of Commerce and a well-known security firm.

We were informed that a similar seminar had been conducted for representatives of the protective services once week before. There were some concerns as to why the police were not using the almost 500 tasers they had purchased over the years. Some persons suggested that there was some doubt as to the legality of the tasers since no specific legislation had been passed authorising their use by police.

CURB is aware that non-lethal tools such as tasers have been incorporated in corrections facilities in developed nations as a means of controlling high risk situations involving inmates. From the research presented at the seminar, there have been relatively few cases of deaths or serious injury from the use of tasers as compared with other traditional tools or instruments for the use of force.

We await with bated breath to learn how this situation unfolds. Hopefully, the owners at A&E Tactical would make a strong lobby for the use of TASERS in the penal system while they wait to hear the outcome of their efforts for the inclusion of the tools by the police.

T&T Prison Abuse cited in US released Human Rights Report 2014.

In prison abuse on March 10, 2014 at 4:59 pm

T&T Prison Abuse cited in US released Human Rights Report 2014

“Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman, or Degrading Treatment or Punishment

Although the constitution and the law prohibit such practices, there were credible reports that police officers and prison guards mistreated individuals under arrest or in detention. From 2005 through 2012, the government paid or was found liable to pay more than 10 million Trinidad & Tobago dollars (TT$) ($1.6 million) in compensation to prisoners on claims of excessive use of force by prison officers.”

More from Human Rights Report:-

Physical Conditions: The country’s prisons, with a design capacity for 4,886 inmates, held an average daily population of 3,800. Of those, approximately 1,700 were convicted inmates, and 2,100 were in pretrial or other status. Pretrial detainees often waited six to 10 years before their cases went to trial. Some prisons suffered from extreme overcrowding, while others were not at full capacity.

Observers often described the Port of Spain Prison and the Golden Grove Remand Yard as having particularly poor conditions and severe overcrowding, with as many as 10 prisoners kept in 10-by-10-foot cells.

The Port of Spain Prison, designed to hold 250 inmates, held 600 prisoners, and the Remand Yard, designed to hold 600 inmates, held 1,156 prisoners!!!

Neither of these facilities had adequate lighting, ventilation, or sanitation facilities.

The Human Rights Report also cites misconduct by T&T prison officers:-

“There were 2,200 prison officers. Authorities charged a number of prison officers for offenses including larceny, drug trafficking, possession of marijuana, and smuggling of contraband to prisoners.”

T&T Prisoner Dead after Alleged Escape Attempt.

In prison abuse on February 22, 2014 at 8:39 am

Yet another inmate has been killed allegedly at the hands of prison authorities in Trinidad and Tobago. This time the deceased was a remandee awaiting trial on a charge of murder.

We trust that the legal process will move swiftly and that law enforcement authorities will investigate the matter thoroughly to ensure that justice is done for the family of the deceased.

Prisoner dies after alleged escape attempt | Trinidad Express Newspaper | News.

Jamaica Defence Force Denies Routine Beating of Prisoners.

In prison abuse on March 3, 2012 at 11:10 am

Recent allegations by 6 high risk remand inmates of routine physical abuse from members of the Jamaica Defence Force (JDF) have been denied by both the JDF and the Department of Corrections.

The inmates who are housed at a special section of the Horizon Adult Remand Centre claimed they were victimised by the soldiers who are in charge of the section where they are housed. All of the are incarcerated while awaiting trial for violent offences.

In response, authorities indicated to journalists that the inmates were making false allegations in an effort to be transferred from the secure section of the facility and returned to general population where they could engage in illicit activities.

Read more: http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/news/VIDEO–JDF-denies-prisoners–claims-of-routine-beatings_10944659#ixzz1o4AyHEpJ

 

Authorities say prison guard charged with sexually abusing inmates

In prison abuse on September 29, 2011 at 7:58 am

Harry Nicoletti, a Pennsylvania prison guard accused of abusing more than 20 inmates, has been arrested.
Harry Nicoletti, a Pennsylvania prison guard accused of abusing more than 20 inmates, has been arrested.
STORY HIGHLIGHTS

Pennsylvania prison guard is accused of sexually and physically abusing 20 inmates
Harry Nicoletti was arrested Tuesday evening in Pittsburgh
He faces 92 counts, including charges of “institutional sexual assault”

(CNN) — A Pennsylvania prison guard accused of sexually and physically abusing more than 20 inmates has been arrested, according to the Allegheny County District Attorney’s office.

Harry Nicoletti, 59, was arrested Tuesday evening in Pittsburgh, and faces 92 counts of institutional sexual assault, official oppression, terroristic threats and simple assault.

According to the criminal complaint, Nicoletti is accused of targeting male inmates convicted of sex crimes, particularly those convicted of crimes against children.

The 34-page report details what authorities describe as a pattern of verbal, physical, and sexual abuse directed at the inmates.

Nicoletti allegedly raped, slapped, bribed and exposed himself to inmates in the State Criminal Institution at Pittsburgh’s “F Block.”

One inmate said that he assaulted 15 other inmates under Nicoletti’s orders and was rewarded for doing so. He did not elaborate.

Nicoletti told CNN affiliate KDKA that the allegations are false. CNN was unable to reach Nicoletti independently, and it could not be determined whether he has an attorney.

His preliminary hearing is scheduled for October 7.

Prison guard in Pittsburgh held on 92 abuse counts

In prison abuse on September 29, 2011 at 7:13 am

A suspended correctional officer from Pittsburgh’s state prison was arrested Tuesday and charged with 92 criminal counts alleging that he sexually and physically abused more than 20 inmates under his control.

Harry Nicoletti, 59, of Coraopolis, Pa., was arraigned Tuesday night and held in the Allegheny County Jail on $75,000 bond.

He is charged with 10 counts of institutional sexual assault, two counts of involuntary deviate sexual intercourse, 27 counts of official oppression, 13 counts of criminal solicitation, eight counts of indecent assault, six counts of indecent exposure, multiple counts of simple assault and terroristic threats and one count of criminal attempt.

The charges date to early 2009 and include allegations ranging from slapping inmates with an open hand, to forcing their heads into toilets and repeatedly flushing them, to having other inmates urinate in the food of convicted sex offenders, to rape and forced oral sex.

In some instances, Nicoletti rewarded inmates who committed violations on his behalf, the complaint said.

The ongoing investigation into abuse at SCI Pittsburgh — with 1,769 inmates — began in late 2010, said Susan McNaughton, a Pennsylvania Department of Corrections spokeswoman.

The department’s Office of Special Investigations and Intelligence then joined with the Allegheny County district attorney’s office several months ago. The county also presented testimony to an investigating grand jury.

Nicoletti, a corrections department employee since November 2001, was suspended without pay Jan. 5.

According to the 34-page criminal complaint, Nicoletti — assigned to the 2 to 10 p.m. shift on prison’s reception unit — primarily targeted inmates who had been convicted of sex crimes against children or those who were gay or transgender.

The most serious allegations charge Nicoletti with raping a transgender inmate twice and attempting to use a broom to sodomize a mentally challenged inmate who had been convicted of sexually assaulting a child.

Six inmates, unidentified in the complaint, are characterized as victims of some form of sexual assault. Sixteen additional inmates are named as victims.

One inmate “stated that new inmate arrivals convicted of sex offenses involving children were sought out and abused by the defendant.”

One inmate, convicted of murder, said he physically assaulted more than 15 other inmates at Nicoletti’s direction.

In some instances, those inmates who abused others were rewarded — sometimes with cigarettes, pizza, snuff and even prescription drugs such as Vicodin.

Seven other corrections officers were suspended in April, McNaughton said, and SCI Pittsburgh’s leadership team was changed in May.

Just days before the criminal charges were brought against Nicoletti, a federal lawsuit was filed naming him and seven other corrections officers and the Corrections Department, alleging a “common plan and conspiracy to sexually abuse, physically abuse and mentally abuse inmates who were homosexual,” along with those who were transgender or convicted of sex crimes.

Nicoletti, in a Pittsburgh Post-Gazette story Friday, denied the lawsuit’s allegations. “There is no truth to any of this whatsoever,” he said.

(Contact Paula Reed Ward at pward(at)post-gazette.com.)

(Distributed by Scripps Howard News Service, http://www.scrippsnews.com.)

In prison abuse on September 14, 2011 at 8:40 pm

CURB pledges its full support

No New Prison To Relieve Antigua Overcrowding

In prison abuse on August 15, 2008 at 3:08 pm

Antiguan Prison Superintendent, Eric Henry, admitted during an interview with the Antigua Sun earlier this year that Her Majesty’s Prison is now faced with a grave overcrowding problem.

Notwithstanding, Minister of Justice and Public Safety, Collin Derrick, has recently stated that the construction of a new prison in Antigua and Barbuda is currently not a pressing priority that would require the diversion of the government resources.

Derrick, while speaking on Observer Radio yesterday, explained that it will take an estimated $20 million to build a facility to house about 500 prisoners taking into account the future expansion of the population of the country’s lone penal institution.

As an alternative, the government intends to utilise part of the lands earmarked for a prison farm to construct a facility to house up to 50 or 60 inmates who are considered to be well behaved. Such prisoners who are willing to participate in the prison rehabilitation programmes will reside at that facility thereby providing short term relief for the prison overcrowding situation.

The British government recently donated over $107,000 to the Ministry of Justice towards the upgrading of the prison farm. The monies will be spent to establish an area of horticultural production on the prison farm, to train inmates in horticultural skills, to develop animal husbandry skills and to erect a proper fence around the property.

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