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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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Listen To Prison Rape Testimony

In prison abuse, prison sexual abuse, restorative justice, sexual abuse, sexual assault on February 10, 2008 at 5:27 pm

CURB recorded the following graphic testimony of a prison rape during our radio discussion on the issue in November 2007 as part of our Restorative Justice Week activities.

This audio is NOT suitable for minors!

Please click to listen or download the audio Testimony.

TCI Journalist Threatened

In prison abuse, prison sexual abuse, restorative justice, Uncategorized on February 10, 2008 at 11:34 am

In the wake of her ground-breaking article which exposed physical and sexual abuse of prisoners in the Grand Turk Prison, Turks and Caicos Islands journalist, Gemma Handy, has been threatened with prosecution.

CURB has sought to render some assistance to her by notifying several British and international agencies about the alleged abuses at the Grand Turk prison and the threats to prosecute Ms. Handy.

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.

Suicide Prompts Probe of BVI Prisons

In prison abuse, prison sexual abuse, restorative justice, sexual abuse, sexual assault on February 1, 2008 at 8:46 pm

In the British Virgin Islands, the recent apparent suicide of an inmate has led to the launch of an investigation into the operations at Her Majesty’s Prison.

Andrew Fahie, the minister with responsibility for prisons, announced in January that in the wake of the death of inmate Patrice Grant, 30, who was found hanging in his cell from a bed-sheet on December 31, 2007.

Fahie referred to Grant’s death as an unfortunate event in the history of the country and expressed condolences to Grant’s family. He pledged that proactive measures would be implemented forthwith to avoid such incidents as well as other incidents recurring.

The mandate of the investigative team is to examine and revise the daily activities and procedures at the prison by both prison officials and inmates; review and revise the daily supervision of inmates; review the daily procedures at the prison by prison officials; examine and make recommendations about the inmates concerns and welfare; and examine and make recommendations about prison officials concerns and welfare.

Fahie assured that the investigation team is in no way aimed to belittle the work of the Royal Virgin Islands Police Force, the Prison Visiting Committee or any prison officials, but rather one in which we can take a closer look at the day to day operations at Her Majesty’s Prison and improve on the weaknesses of this institution and strengthen the strengths.

CURB believes that there needs to be an increase in the attention paid by prison officials to the emotional wellness of incarcerated persons. The trauma of the criminal justice process, separation from loved ones, prison conditions and the prison sub-culture are all unspoken ‘additions’ to the sentences delivered by judges and magistrates.

Without proper infrastructural changes within prisons and programmes to assist inmates treat with the challenges of these factors, self harm, inmate-on-inmate violence and re-offending post-discharge are hardly likely to be eradicated.

Caribbean Prison Rape Reports

In prison abuse, prison sexual abuse, restorative justice, sexual abuse, sexual assault on November 30, 2007 at 8:25 pm

In November 2007, as CURB was observing Restorative Justice Week under the theme, “Not Part of the Sentence”, which highlighted the problem of prison sexual assault and abuse, we received reports of prison sexual assaults taking place in other Caribbean nations.

We reported in our RJ Blog on news items from The Bahamas and Turks and Caicos Islands.

“Not Part of the Sentence”

In prison abuse, prison sexual abuse, restorative justice on November 24, 2007 at 5:30 am

To observe Restorative Justice Week 2007 CURB hosted a 5-day Training Programme in counselling survivors and perpetrators of sexual abuse.

For details about the landmark events, continue reading below:-

“Caribbean Umbrella Body For Restorative Behaviour (CURB) – a network of NGOs engaged in prison ministry and restorative justice activities – has recently concluded a week of public sensitisation on the issue of prison sexual abuse in commemoration of Restorative Justice Week 2007.

The theme selected for Restorative Justice Week 2007 in Trinidad and Tobago was “Not Part of the Sentence” which focuses on the need to ensure that prisoners are not sexually abused in custody and serve only the sentences imposed upon them by competent Courts of law.

To commence Restorative Justice Week, CURB hosted a panel discussion on ISAAC 98.1 FM on Sunday 18th November 2007 on the issue of male sexual assault in prison. This landmark discussion featured representatives of the Prison Reform Transformation Unit, Prisons Officers Association, a Behavioural Change Consultant, a Prison Ministry Volunteer and an Ex-Prisoner who witnessed a prison rape!

During Restorative Justice Week, CURB hosted an intensive 5-day training programme for volunteers which introduced them to competencies needed to counsel and otherwise intervene to support both survivors and perpetrators of sexual assault and abuse. The skills acquired will empower volunteers to provide timely and effective support to prison inmates who may have been sexually abused prior to going to jail as well as to those who are raped, buggered and or sexually assaulted while in prison.

The training commenced on Monday 19th November, 2007 at the Church On The Rock, Lady Young Road, Morvant and concluded on Friday 23rd November, 2007 with the distribution of certificates of participation to persons who enrolled in the programme.

CURB was privileged to secure the assistance of experienced facilitators from the Rape Crisis Society of Trinidad and Tobago and Dolly and Associates Limited who vividly and creatively outlined the local scenario in relation to the incidence of and psychological effects of child and adult sexual assault and abuse. The facilitators also explained the correlation between such abuse and the demonstration of anti-social behaviour on the part of the victims which often leads to arrest, prosecution and imprisonment.

To close R.J. Week, Mr. Wendell De Leon of Dolly and Associates Limited outlined the unique dynamics of sexual behaviour, assault and abuse in the context of incarceration and utilised role plays to illustrate techniques of working with survivors of such brutal sexual abuse. Moreover, he showed how prison sexual abuse contributes to re-offending by ex-prisoners who are traumatised and angry at the injustice they experience in prison.

The information shared by participants in the interactive sessions demonstrate that there is a need to address the problem of sexual assault in youth care facilities as well as adult penal institutions so as to prevent more serious crime and public health issues such as HIV and other sexually transmitted diseases.

This introductory training is the first of its kind in Trinidad and Tobago and the wider Caribbean and will be supplemented with advanced courses in 2008 as CURB continues its indepth “Stop Prison Abuse” project to analyse and eliminate prison abuse in Trinidad and Tobago and the wider Caribbean.

In observance of Restorative Justice Week, CURB has launched a dedicated website – www.stopprisonabuse.com – to treat with the regional problem of prison sexual and other abuses. We encourage persons who know of acts of prison sexual abuse in local prisons to contact us via email at info@stopprisonabuse.com or info@curbcrime.org.

CURB proposes to work with local prison authorities to collect comprehensive data on the incidence, causal factors and possible solutions to eliminate prison sexual abuse. We earnestly desire to see the creation of a framework of care for survivors of sexual abuse who are in prison and the delivery of effective treatment for perpetrators of sexual abuse who are in custody.

We look forward to receiving the co-operation of the Commissioner of Prisons, the Minister of National Security and the newly appointed Minister of Social Development as we continue to work towards the restoration of persons affected by crime.”

Prison Rape Radio Interview

In prison abuse, prison sexual abuse, restorative justice, sexual abuse, sexual assault, Uncategorized on November 19, 2007 at 5:19 am

To mark the beginning of Restorative Justice Week 2007, CURB President, Adrian N. Alexander, hosted a Radio Interview on ISAAC 98.1 FM about Prison Sexual Abuse.

Guests on the radio programme included the Executive Director of the Prison Reform Transformation Unit, the General Secretary of the Prison Officers Association, a Behaviour Modification Specialist, a prison ministry counsellor and an ex-prisoner.

Click on the link above to access the audio files from the interview which included an eye witness account of prison rape!

Meeting with Prison Commissioner – November 2007

In prison abuse, prison sexual abuse, sexual abuse, sexual assault on November 17, 2007 at 8:02 pm

On 6 November 2007, CURB President met with Mr. John Rougier, Prisons Commissioner, to discuss the issue of Prison Sexual Abuse.

The Commissioner requested that CURB postpone the planned training programme for Restorative Justice Week until a consultation could be held with senior officers. CURB had submitted several proposals to the Commissioner including one which outlines the need for a national consultation in the aftermath of the conduct of research into the incidence of prison sexual assault and abuse.

However, the CURB Board of Directors decided that, in all the circumstances of CURB’s financial commitments with training facilitators, it would not be possible to postpone the events for Restorative Justice Week.

Developments in October 2007

In prison abuse, prison sexual abuse, sexual abuse, sexual assault on October 31, 2007 at 7:10 pm

In October 2007, following a decision taken at the Board of Directors meeting, the CURB President met with the Council of Prison Chaplains and Ministers (COPCAM) on the issue of prison sexual abuse.

During that month, we also wrote to the Prisons Commissioner again, despite not having received any reply from him to our letter of January 2007 requesting a meeting on the prison rape issue.

CURB also wrote to the Honourable Fitzgerald Hinds, Minister in charge of Prison Rehabilitation, requesting a meeting with him to discuss the problem of prisoner rape.

In this month, CURB created the new dedicated Stop Prison Abuse website and began to finalise arrangements with facilitators for a week of training for prison volunteers in counselling survivors and perpetrators of sexual assault and abuse during Restorative Justice Week – 19th to 23rd November 2007.

CURB President, Adrian N. Alexander and a COPCAM member, Dr. Andrea Palmer, participated in an advanced counselling training programme with Rape Crisis Society which extended over 5 Saturdays.

CURB was pleased to see several prison officers in attendance at this training programme but was concerned that the officers were drawn from various departments and seemed unsure of the future application of the information to which they were being exposed.

This was in light of the absence of defined structures within the Prison Service for them to counsel with prisoners who are survivors of sexual assault or abuse.

CURB also wrote a funding proposal to the government of Trinidad and Tobago requesting financial assistance to host a series of training programmes to, inter alia:-

1. empower persons to counsel survivors and perpetrators of sexual assault and abuse,

2. conduct focus groups, interviews, surveys and other research into prison sexual abuse in Trinidad and Tobago and

3. develop and distribute literature and other resources to impact the sub-culture of local prisons and change mindsets with respect to prison sexual assault.

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