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Posts Tagged ‘Caribbean’

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.
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Update on Stop Prison Abuse Project.

In prison abuse, prison sexual abuse, sexual abuse, sexual assault on May 26, 2008 at 8:17 am

In Trinidad and Tobago, CURB has been working quietly behind the scenes to secure a visit to the twin-island nation by representatives of the international organisation, Stop Prisoner Rape (SPR).

The purpose of the initial visit would be for SPR to meet with Prison Commissioner, John Rougier, become acquainted with the situation in local prisons, the intentions of prison authorities, and the needs of all stakeholders, including rape crisis counsellors, prison volunteers and other agencies in treating with prison sexual assault and abuse.

SPR has over 30 years experience in advocating for the rights of prisoners to be free from sexual assault and abuse and played an integral role in the passage in the U.S.A. of the Prison Rape Elimination Act of 2003.

Thus far, SPR has offered to fund its initial visit to Trinidad and Tobago and may well return before the end of 2008 to conduct such workshops and other training sessions for prison officers, chaplains, volunteers and crisis responders as may be deemed necessary.

SPR had hoped to visit the Caribbean from 26th to 30th May, 2008. However, in an effort to accommodate the Prison Commissioner of Trinidad and Tobago whose schedule for that period was said to be extremely busy, SPR opted to postpone the trip.

At present, CURB is awaiting a response from the Prison Commissioner as to whether several alternative dates in July and August 2008 proposed by SPR are convenient for him to accommodate them.

More Abuse Alleged at TCI Prison

In prison abuse, prison sexual abuse, sexual abuse, sexual assault on April 5, 2008 at 8:44 am

Journalist Gemma Handy recently published an article in the Turks and Caicos Islands Weekly News in which she quoted a prison source who alleged that there had been a number of assaults by officers against inmates in recent weeks.

The officer alleged that since the first article by Miss Handy exposing physical and sexual assaults at the Turk Prison, there have been two or three beatings. The officer indicated that the beaten inmates were not allowed to see the Visiting Committee until a much later stage by which time their bruises had healed.

However, the officer claimed that the article had a positive effect as there had been some “positive changes” at the prison since Ms Handy highlighted the abuses.

The officer added that the full investigative reports on the abuses alleged by Miss Handy should have been made available to the public and the media as well as inmates themselves. The officer is quoted as saying, “The Government is clearly behind the prison and hiding what’s been going on because it makes them look bad.”

Belize Police Charged for Beating Prisoner

In prison abuse on March 30, 2008 at 10:41 am

In Belize, prisoner Kevin Dawson has alleged that two police officers beat him with clubs while he was being held in a cell at the Queen Street Police Station.

Dawson, who was recently recaptured after he escaped lawful custody earlier this month, sustained injuries to his face, head, leg and arms.

The two officers, police constables Alister Casey and John Myvette were charged with Wounding and arraigned in Court where they pled not guilty. Both were released on $1,000.00 bail and are to re-appear before the Magistrate’s Court on 7th May, 2008.

Media in Belize have quoted Assistant Commissioner of Police, Allen Whylie, as saying that the two officers will almost certainly face disciplinary charges from the Police Force of Prejudice as well as Unwarrantable force to a prisoner in custody.

Delay in Antigua Prison Sexual Assault Report

In sexual abuse, sexual assault, Uncategorized on March 30, 2008 at 10:24 am

In Antigua, allegations of sexual harassment at Her Majesty’s Prison (HMP) are being investigated by an independent committee established in early February, 2008 by the Ministry of Justice and Public Safety.

The allegations were made against Eric Henry, superintendent of Her Majesty’s Prison, by several female prison officers. Recently, however, similar allegations have been levelled against a few male prison officers.

The committee comprises Chairperson Rosa Lee, Bishop Kingsley Lewis, Sheila Roseau, director of the Directorate of Gender Affairs and Joan Moses, the committee’s secretary.

Initially the committee was to have submitted its report on 29 February 2008. However, an extension was granted to 31 March 2008. According to Minister Derrick, a press conference will be held subsequent to the release of the report, at which time the members of the committee will discuss their findings.

Henry has had these allegations levelled against him since July, 2007 but it was only in January, 2008 that several female officers spoke out to the media and alleged that they were propositioned by the prison superintendent.

CURB hopes that justice is done in the aftermath of this investigation and encourages the Antigua media as well as Minister Derrick to initiate an inquiry as to whether prisoners in Antigua have also experienced sexual assault and abuse from male prison officers.

Inmates represent a voiceless population and may well have endured similar or worse assaults but do not have the ear of the media to ventilate their woes.

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