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Lock-up overhaul - Policy tabled to change how persons treated when detained by police

Published:Thursday | April 30, 2015 | 4:00 AMEdmond Campbell
National Security Minister Peter Bunting

A comprehensive revi-sed policy for persons deprived of their liberty by the state has been approved by Cabinet and is expected to make significant changes to the way individuals are treated while

in police custody or while incarcerated in a correctional institution.

National Security Minister Peter Bunting, who tabled the policy document in Parliament yesterday, said once the procedures are implemented, they would move Jamaica into the 21st century in terms of the treatment of persons in lock-ups or correctional centres.

The plethora of changes being proposed in the policy paper was crafted by a subcommittee of Cabinet in the wake of the death of Mario Deane on August 6, last year, after he was severely beaten, three days earlier while in police custody at the Barnett Street police lockup in Montego Bay, St James.

Deane had been taken into custody for the possession of a ganja spliff and his subsequent death brought into sharp focus conditions relating to arrest and detention.

The subcommittee comprised the ministers of national security and justice and a raft of public- and private-sector entities, including the Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions, the Resident Magistrates Association, the Office of the Children's Advocate, the Attorney General's Department, the Ministry of Health, the Independent Commission of Investigations and the Office of the Public Defender, among others.

The subcommittee was divided into three work streams, with the first working group examining ways to reduce overcrowding in police lock-ups and correctional facilities. The second team was tasked with the responsibility of reviewing the current Lock-up Administration Policy and Procedures of the Jamaica Constabulary Force. This group sought to address issues of training, professionalism and accountability of officers who interface with persons in custody. The third group reviewed the infrastructure and logistical issues affecting police lock-ups and correctional facilities.

Bunting told his parliamentary colleagues that the report of working group two was ready for immediate implementation while the documents presented by the other two groups required further policy work.

The policy speaks to detainees who have suffered head injuries, noting that they should be immediately transported to hospital for medical assessment and monitoring, since a head injury may result in rapid deterioration in the health of the detainee.

On the issue of communicable diseases, the policy outlines that procedures should be established to manage the potential risk of communicable diseases. It states that the detainee and his property should be kept in isolation until medical directions have been obtained.

Instruction has been given that where a person with a communicable disease has been in custody, the cell must be cleaned before another detainee uses it.

The communicable diseases listed in the policy document are Hepatitis (A, B and C); tuberculosis; HIV and AIDS, scabies, fleas and ebola.

In relation to children in conflict with the law, the policy stipulates that upon arrest, the parents or guardians of a child should be immediately notified by the police of the arrest and told the reason. It said the child should be told at the time of arrest in plain, simple, child-friendly and age-appropriate language so that the child understands the reason for arrest.

A child who is detained but not charged within 24 hours of arrest or detention should be released into the care of the parents or guardians once such release would neither jeopardise nor compromise the investigations.

edmond.campbell@gleanerjm.com

Administration Policy for Persons Deprived of their Liberty

n A Suicide Prevention Protocol that outlines the procedures to be followed when dealing with persons who manifest suicidal tendencies.

n Provisions, under the broad heading of general health care, which target mental health and physical injury/concerns.

n Specific provisions to outline how persons with disabilities are to be dealt with.

n Specific provisions to outline procedures for dealing with children in conflict with the Law.

n A training component that emphasises the need for ongoing capacity building with regard to the treatment of the different categories of persons who may be deprived of their liberty.

n Sanctions for breaches of the policy.

n Persons who are remanded and who, under normal circumstances would be held in police lock-ups, but are instead handed over to the Department of Correctional Services.