Posts Tagged ‘prison abuse’

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.”

TT Man Prefers Death Than Jail

In prison abuse on April 4, 2008 at 3:52 am

On Thursday 27th March, 2008 an accused whose bail was revoked by a Trinidad magistrate pleaded with the magistrate not to sned him to jail for fear of being stabbed to death.

When Randy Mason saw that his plea fell on deaf ears, he slammed his head three times into the wooden walls of the courtroom and shouted that he rather die than return to jail.

CURB recalls that similar pleas by a youth a few years ago were followed by a completed suicide after he was remanded to the Youth Training Centre. It is alleged that the youth in that case may have been the victim of repeated sexual assault and abuse in custody.

We hope that the prison authorities place Mr. Mason on a more effective suicide watch than that provided last year to Richard Alexander who hanged himself in custody in 2007.

We urge them to provide Mr. Mason with professional mental health care to ascertain the basis of his fears and a thorough medical examination to detect any evidence of physical assault or sexual abuse.

Country Report on T&T Human Rights Practices

In prison abuse, prison sexual abuse on April 1, 2008 at 6:21 am

In March 2008 the United States Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor published its annual Country reports on Human Rights Practices worldwide.

With respect to Trinidad and Tobago, the report expressed concern over incidents of alleged 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.”

In referring specifically to prison and detention center conditions, the report conceded that, while conditions in the prison system’s eight facilities were somewhat upgraded, they continued to be harsh.

In purporting to quote the Prison Service Commissioner, the report states that the number of prisoners at the Port of Spain prison, originally designed to accommodate 250 inmates, increased to 599 in 2007, compared to 554 in 2006. The average number of prisoners in each 10- by 10-foot cell increased to a maximum of eight.

According to prison authorities, at the end of 2007 they had brought charges against 23 prison officers for assault and battery or for poor conduct on the job, including possession of narcotics and provision of cell phones to inmates.

One notable incident of death in custody which raises concerns for the safety of prisoners in general is that of the August 3rd death of Letroy Beepath. Mr. Beepath died from alleged blunt trauma to the chest while in remand at Golden Grove Prison.

On August 22, 2007 the police completed their investigation into Beepath’s death and submitted the case to the chief of homicide investigations, where it remained at year’s end.

The September 19, 2007 alleged suicide of Golden Grove Prison inmate Kurt Alexander also raises questions of the safety of incarcerated persons. Mr. Alexander allegedly hanged himself in his cell while awaiting trial for sexually assaulting a four-year-old boy in 2004.

Despite recommendations that he be isolated due to two unsuccessful suicide attempts, Alexander was kept in a cell with six other prisoners.

CURB calls for an independent inquiry to be launched by the Office of the Ombudsman into deaths in custody of remanded and convicted persons over the past 20 years.

We also desire that the Forensic Sciences Department of the Ministry of National Security be mandated to investigate and make notes as to the state of the genital organs and anal cavities of all inmates who die in custody.

It is only in this way that the loved ones of those who die in custody would be able to obtain true justice.

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.

Turks and Caicos Governor Receives Prison Abuse Report

In prison abuse, prison sexual abuse on March 30, 2008 at 9:36 am

Last week, Turks and Caicos Islands Governor, H.E. Richard Tauwhare, received the reports completed following the investigations carried out by the Police and Prison Visiting Committee into allegations of physical and sexual abuse and mistreatment at the prison on Grand Turk.

The Governor indicated that he was satisfied that there were no widespread or sanctioned abuses of power at the prison or any arbitrary or systematic denial of entitlements. However, he conceded that the report reveals the existence of some individual issues which had not been dealt with as effectively as they should have been.

The Governor hastened to add that these individual cases were no reflection on the staff at the prison, who continued to work under pressure in a difficult environment where the prison population was rising quickly.

He expressed hope that the newly appointed Prison Superintendent would continue to make progress in resolving many long-standing issues at the prison.

Further, the Overseas Territories Prison Reform Co-ordinator has now visited the prison to advise on work to improve the prison’s operations and to oversee the introduction of more effective systems and procedures.

The Governor also assured that members of the Prison Visiting Committee will continue to visit the prison on a regular basis and to monitor standards there.

CURB sees this as a confirmation of the work done by journalist Gemma Handy whose recent article on abuses at Grand Turk prompted the investigation by the Governor, police and the Prison Visiting Committee.

Silence from TT Prison Commissioner

In prison sexual abuse, sexual abuse, sexual assault on March 22, 2008 at 6:55 am

Despite a promise made to CURB President, Adrian Alexander, on 28th February 2008 to convene a meeting with stakeholders by mid-March 2008 to discuss prison sexual assault and abuse in Trinidad and Tobago, there has been no word from Prison Commissioner, John Rougier, on the proposed meeting.

CURB’s Adrian Alexander duly submitted a draft agenda for the meeting to the Prison Commissioner’s office by email on 4th March 2008 in compliance with a request by Mr. Rougier.

The agenda covered topics on prison sexual assault and abuse as well as sex offender management in accordance with sentiments expressed by the Prison Commissioner in late February.

There have been no replies to the several email and telephone messages sent by CURB to Mr. Rougier’s office.

CURB remains committed to bring to fruition the Stop Prison Abuse project and has made contact with international professionals in the field to conduct train the trainer workshops for rape crisis counsellors, corrections officers, prison chaplains, prison volunteers and aftercare workers in Trinidad and Tobago during 2008.

CURB Holds Talks With Commissioner of Prisons.

In prison abuse, prison sexual abuse on February 28, 2008 at 6:26 pm

On Thursday 28th February, 2008 CURB President, Mr. Adrian Alexander, had a brief meeting with Mr. John Rougier, Trinidad and Tobago Prison Commissioner, and Mr. Gordon Husbands, Penal Reform and Transformation Unit Director, concerning the issue of prison sexual assault and abuse.

The discussions were a follow-up to a meeting on 6th November, 2007 between Mr. Alexander and Mr. Rougier, days before Restorative Justice Week 2007 when CURB highlighted the issue of prison sexual assault and abuse with the theme, “Not Part of the Sentence”.

The Commissioner expressed his sincere concern over the plight of inmates who may have been coerced into sexual activity as well as those who perpetrate such actions. He indicated that the Trinidad and Tobago Prison Service had begun doing some research into the issue to develop a plan of action to treat with those inmates as well as those convicted by the Court of sexual offences.

He promised to host a meeting between the personnel who had been working on the matter on behalf of the Prison Service and those who have been working with CURB on the Stop Prison Abuse project.

CURB is hopeful that this partnership between the Prison Service and civilian stakeholders will result in the development of comprehensive and effective strategies to eliminate the incidence of prison sexual assault and abuse and to provide a system of care for those who are survivors and perpetrators of such activities.

The proposed meeting between the two teams will take place before mid-March 2008.

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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