Prison riot expected
Policemen gather outside the gates of the Horizon Remand Centre during a riot at the institution on Monday. - Norman Grindley/Chief Photographer
THE EDITOR, Sir:
Prison riots in Jamaica are not unusual. This last prison riot was imminent. Two weeks ago I attempted to voice my concern with the minister of national security but he was not in office. I subsequently spoke with a once-vocal trade unionist on prison matters, who promised that we would continue discussing similar concerns relating to the correctional services.
The prison riot at the Horizon Remand Centre has some basic fundamental and simple similarities to that at the St Catherine Adult Correctional Centre in 2002:
1. Poor relationship between correctional services management and warders.
2. Poor working conditions of fearful, frustrated warders.
3. Poor understanding of inmates' needs.
4. Poor understanding of prison management.
5. Poor government insight of the need for quality inmate care and good prison management.
The last point is of major importance as it is not uncommon for the post of commissioner to be awarded to 'recommended associate' who might be qualified but possess poor management skills. So with this practice these self-conscious impressionists are more comfortable pleasing themselves rather than doing the job well. Consequently, government will forever remain blind to the real prison affairs.
Not about power
Prison bosses must be reminded that ... "leadership in its finest form is not about power, but about service. It originates not from vanity but from empathy"... I sympathise with correctional officers as government fail to correct the ineffective leadership within the correctional services.
The Armadale shame has left mental scars in the brains of all Jamaicans.
The continued inhumane conditions in most of our overcrowded prisons are literally pungent to our olfactory nerves.
Some children reported missing from their communities continue to be lost in our prisons. Our prisons have now become the main holding area for many juveniles who are left untreated for their behaviour disorder.
Our prisons, too, have become the island's largest institution for mentally ill persons who are raped yet prison managers remain as paralytic mutes. Public health emergencies that exist are being attended to with no significant help from outside agencies or the Ministry of Health. Whether a prisoner receives adequate care is dependent upon whether he or she is lucky enough to be at a facility where the generally understaffed and often poorly trained medical personnel are both able and are interested in providing services to any prisoner under their charge. The embarrassing events within our correctional facilities continue.
I would like see all councillors, members of parliament, ministers of the gospel and some of our noted journalists and talk-show hosts invited to a 48-hour endurance expedition test in one of those prison cells. Add to this, no water for 24 hours. Would there be any riot?
Like all the above-mentioned disgraceful events (real and proposed), the truth about Horizon Remand Centre beatings will never be known to the public as prison authorities continue to blindfold government's Ministry of National Security, that is responsible for prisoners. If at all we are serious about ridding the society of crime and violence, it should start in the prisons by treating those who fail to uphold the law of the land with respect. Violence in prisons cannot treat any violence-shattered society.
I repeat. Through effective leadership, a quality improvement strategy can:
1. Decrease tension or friction with inmates
2. Enhance staff cooperation
3. Increase staff satisfaction
4. Demonstrate cost effectiveness
"The degree of civilisation of a society can be judged by entering its prisons" - Fyodor Dostoevsky.
I am, etc.,
Councillor Dr RAYMOTH
Former prison doctor