JCF spends big to keep detainees behind bars
The Jamaica Constabulary Force (JCF) spent a record $120 million to renovate police lock-ups across the island last year, as it moved to bolster its capabilities to secure inmates until trial.
Red-faced and disheartened by the escape of 43 prisoners from police custody last year, Assistant Police Commissioner Leon Rose noted that the sum was the most ever spent in one year to rehabilitate lock-up facilities across Jamaica.
"This calendar year (2015), we have undertaken a number of major repairs to major lock-ups across the island. The Spanish Town police lock-up was just recently refurbished at a cost of over $12 million," Rose told The Sunday Gleaner recently.
"The Portmore Police Station is currently undergoing repairs as we speak, and that is in excess of $12 million; and over $16 million is being spent at the Half-Way Tree lock-up, which is also under repairs," said Rose, finishing off the list of "major" repairs with the Denham Town police lock-up, the Gun Court Remand Centre, and the Admiral Town Police Station.
Some of the work, at the Hunts Bay Police Station in particular, was done in collaboration with the National Housing Trust and other partners, he explained.
"We would have done major work on at least nine major police lock-ups and this would have cost us over $120 million," he said, noting that refurbishing work was also done on other police stations that do not have lock-up facilities.
Fresh paintwork, the swapping of metal bars serving as cell grilles for more sturdy train track lines, the widening of windows, fresh masonry and the replacement of toilet facilities were among some of the upgrades observed at the Half-Way Tree police lock-up.
Similar work was done at the other facilities, said Rose, admitting that some 43 escapees broke their way out of recently renovated facilities such as the Spanish Town lock-up, from which five inmates escaped on December 19.
At least three of the five have been accounted for, police say - one was rearrested, one was turned over by parents and the other was found beheaded while on the run from the police.
While Rose noted that there were no major structural issues with any of the facilities upgraded, he said overcrowding and unsanitary conditions were also factors which prompted the major spend.
"In order to ensure adherence, we have been installing at major lock-up facilities cameras, which will help investigators to determine the level of culpability," he said. "This is also in adherence to human rights and the dignity of persons being held in police lock-ups."
Last week, Kahmile Reid, senior public relations officer at the Independent Commission of Investigations (INDECOM), reported that seven persons died while in police custody in 2015.
One of those persons was 29-year-old Kemar Anderson, who was being held at the Hunts Bay Police Station lock-up in connection with the death of Woman Constable Crystal Thomas, who was shot and killed on a public passenger bus last July.
Anderson battled serious injuries at the Kingston Public Hospital for two weeks before dying. He was taken there after he was reportedly found lying in a cell in an unresponsive state. Police reported that he was beaten by other inmates but INDECOM is probing those claims.
"I have been advised that the investigation is still ongoing and as such no further comments can be made. As soon as the investigation is completed I will advise accordingly," said Reid on Thursday.
Cost to refurbish some of the major lock-ups last year
Spanish Town $12m+
Portmore Police $12m+
Half-Way Tree $16m+
Denham Town $12.6m+
Gun Court $10m+
Kingston Central $15m+
Admiral Town $3.6m