Tue | Aug 21, 2018

Lock-up injustice

Published:Wednesday | September 3, 2014 | 12:00 AM

Livern Barrett, Gleaner Writer

A disturbing picture has emerged about the inhumane treatment of detainees and the deplorable conditions under which they are being held in some police lock-ups in the Corporate Area.

The issues run the gamut of well-docu-mented problems of overcrowding and filthy cells to detainees, in some instances, going months without getting much-needed medical attention and being routinely held in custody for more than the 24 hours allowed.

The revelations are contained in reports drafted by justices of the peace (JPs) after their mandatory inspections of four police stations in Kingston and St Andrew.

The reports, copies of which were obtained by The Gleaner, come at a time when the brutal beating death of Mario Deane has reignited discussions about the conditions in some of the nation's police lock-ups.

They detailed what JPs saw when they visited the Mountain View Police Station in April; the Bull Bay Police Station in July; and the Darling Street and City Centre police stations in August.

At the Bull Bay lock-up, the JPs said that they counted 29 detainees in the two cells built to house 10 persons.

"Prisoners complained that because of the massive overcrowding, sleeping is next to none. When we visited the cell, the atmosphere was indeed suffocating," they wrote in their report to the custos of Kingston, Steadman Fuller.

The JPs said they also discovered that detainees were not being taken to hospital for their appointments or having their prescriptions filled because "there are no vehicles".

They highlighted the case of a detainee who suffered from high blood pressure and who had an appointment for January 30 but had not been taken to hospital up to the time of their visit in July.

The JPs also pointed to another inmate who had a May 20 appointment for an ECG and two blood tests but was still waiting to be taken to hospital.

They documented the case of two other detainees who were held two days before their visit for "reasonable suspicion of murder" and "reasonable suspicion of illegal possession of firearm". They noted that the men were being held in the lock-up, even though one of them was to face an identification parade.

"We strongly suggest that the custos' office, the lock-up subcommittee, and all other parties concerned move with urgency to correct the above shortfall at the Bull Bay Police Station," they wrote.

At the Mountain View Police Station, another team of JPs reported counting 10 detainees in a cell built to house two persons.

They also detailed a slew of hygiene-related issues, noting that six of the detainees had rashes all over their bodies but had not received medical treatment.

The JPs reported that they frequently observed insects and rodents. They also reported seeing slime on the cell walls and that there was a blocked cistern as well as infrequent collection of garbage.

"It was recommended that the public health authority be brought in immediately to inspect this facility," they wrote.

The JPs said detainees were also being taken to court late, something that denies them the opportunity to meet with their attorneys and often results in their cases being pushed back.

They also found two persons who had each been taken to court four times with one of them getting a new return date and the other left in limbo with no new court date.

"It was recommended that these persons be released as they have been in custody for more than the 24 hours allowed," they wrote.

The Darling Street police lock-up, which was inspected on a date agreed between the police and the JPs, was given a passing grade. The team that inspected that facility said there were no detainees in custody and said the cells were fairly clean.

The revelations come nearly two weeks after the Jamaica Constabulary Force (JCF), at the direction of National Security Minister Peter Bunting, conducted an audit of all police lock-ups nationwide.

Yesterday, acting Police Commissioner Glenmore Hinds told The Gleaner that the audit had found that nearly 80 per cent of the persons in custody were remanded by the courts.

According to Hinds, a majority of those remaining are persons who have been granted bail but are unable to take up the offer.

He noted that there have been several instances where divisional commanders have gone to court to get bail conditions varied for accused persons.

"The JCF is not an uncaring force that does not care for persons in custody," he insisted.

Bunting confirmed that he had seen a preliminary report of the audit and said it showed that if persons took up their bail offers, the problem of overcrowding would not exist.