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Posts Tagged ‘restorative justice’

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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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.

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.

HIV AIDS in Caribbean Prisons

In prison abuse, sexual assault on December 31, 2007 at 8:32 pm

In December 2007, CURB reported in its RJ Blog a news item relating to the rate of HIV AIDS in regional prisons based on an article coming out of Jamaica.

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