Archive for the ‘restorative justice’ Category

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.


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.

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.

Deplorable Prison Conditions Can Deteriorate Prisoners’ Mental Health.

In mental health, prison mental health problems, restorative justice on September 5, 2014 at 7:24 am

Noted psychiatrist and president of the Psychiatrists Association, Dr. Varma Deyalsingh, reportedly commented on the impact of prison conditions on the mental health of incarcerated persons. He has made some valuable suggestions for the treatment of the issues which go beyond the current recommendations from other quarters for the installation of CCTV cameras in prisons.

Dr. Deyalsingh intimated that prisons authorities need to implement measures of assessment (of prisoners and their prior mental health issues) as soon as possible and deal with prison conditions as well such as allow prison authorities to work closely with the police and the judicial system to ensure that cases are expedited and that prisoners have their matters dealt with in the shortest possible time.

CURB hopes that the prison authorities work closely with the civilian arm of the prisons, the Council of Prison Chaplains and Ministers (COPCAM), to develop effective means whereby assessment and monitoring of potentially suicidal inmates can occur. We believe that the members of COPCAM can support the work being done by the trained psychologists and other mental health professionals in the prison system, even as budgetary allocations are made for a greater number of permanent mental health staff for the thousands of prisoners and remanded persons in the local prison system.

We hope this matter receives the priority it deserves as the Ministry of Justice prepares to host the nation’s first Restorative Justice Conference in October, 2014. Preventing, reducing and addressing mental health issues of both victims and offenders is a key component in the process of the restoration to wholeness of persons involved in the criminal justice system.


via Deplorable Prison Conditions Can Deteriorate Prisoners’ Mental Health..

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 : :.

New BVI Prison To Maintain Human Rights

In prison abuse, restorative justice on May 31, 2008 at 6:39 pm

Just as the prison at Balsam Ghut approaches three inmates short of reaching its maximum of 120, the British Virgin Islands premier, Ralph O’Neal collected the keys to the Territory’s new female prison and immigration detention centre during an official ceremony on Friday 30th May 2008.

The Premier told the gathering that the modern trends towards a globalised community have increased pressures for governments to provide detention facilities that are capable of achieving world standards for safety and security.

Minister for Prisons Honourable Andrew Fahie stated that any person who is detained – including every sentenced prisoner, whether male or female, refugee, expatriate or local – has the right to conditions of detention that are consistent with human dignity, adequate accommodation, proper nutrition and medical treatment.

Minister Fahie pledged to do his utmost to continue to ensure that every effort is made to continue to upgrade and provide adequately for all individuals in this community, even those that are incarcerated.

The new female prison and immigration detention centre are housed in the same building. The Immigration Department is responsible for the top floor of the two-storey building, while Her Majesty’s Prison will utilise the ground floor as the new female prison and juvenile facility. All of the different sections are completely sealed off from one another.

St. Vincent and Grenadines Prison Report Soon

In prison abuse, restorative justice on April 30, 2008 at 3:12 am

The Caribbean can expect a report on conditions at Her Majesty’s Prisons to be released soon, according to St. Vincent and the Grenadines Human Rights president and prominent Attorney-at-Law, Ms. Nicole Sylvester.

The report is based on interviews conducted at the prison and observations made by SVGHRA members during visits to the penal institution. Members of the Association have seen prisoners who have received fractured bones and other injuries while they were incarcerated.

Ms. Sylvester was hopeful that the new proposed multi-million dollar prison facility being constructed at Belle Isle, would improve the conditions of inmates and pledged the support of the Association if the facility becomes a reality. However, she believes that the proposed construction should not relieve the prison authorities of responsibility for the manner in which the inmates at Her Majesty Prison are being housed and treated.

Asked by the media about a previous promise by the government of St. Vincent and the Grenadines to construct a juvenile detention centre, Ms. Sylvester was saddened that the assurances were never fulfilled. She indicated that her Association would continue to agitate for a separate facility for juveniles in the justice system.

CURB will be very interested in reading the report of the SVGHRA and believes that citizens in all Caribbean territories should develop a greater interest in what is taking place behind prison walls to ensure that their tax dollars are not being utilised to perpetrate, condone or cover up physical and or sexual abuses on prison inmates.

Country Report on Jamaica Human Rights Practices

In prison abuse, restorative justice on April 2, 2008 at 6:57 am

The U.S. Country Report on Human Rights Practices in Jamaica for 2007 made particular mention of the penal system.

The Report states that physical abuse of prisoners by guards continued, despite efforts by the government to remove abusive guards and improve procedures.

“Prison conditions remained poor, primarily due to overcrowding and poor sanitary conditions. The Department of Correctional Services took measures during the year to improve catering services and also entered into a new contract for insect and rodent control for all facilities.”

This in effect indicates that the prisons in Jamaica were found to have been home to rats, roaches, flies and other creatures which could infect officers and inmates alike. Such a state of affairs creates an environment for widespread communicable disease which would filter into the wider community as inmates are released.

“Medical care also was poor, primarily a result of having only three full-time doctors, one full-time nurse, and no psychiatrist to cover 13 facilities with 4,790 inmates across the island.”

The refusal to make adequate provision for medical care for the prison population is an example of State neglect and negligence which can lead to a public health issue that affects the entire island. Moreover, with more than 50% of prisoners battling substance abuse problems, psychiatric care is essential to the rehabilitation of such offenders and the reduction of their likelihood to re-offend upon release.

CURB encourages the new Jamaican government to right the wrongs allowed to continue in respect to the prison system. It is prudent for them to invest in making the prisons more sanitary and to retain adequate staff to assist in the rehabilitation and transformation process of inmates. Such an investment will bear fruit for the entire community.

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.

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.

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