Thu | Sep 29, 2022

Washbasins used as toilets at lock-up

Damning report on Area One police cells, other facilities

Published:Wednesday | September 21, 2022 | 12:09 AMEdmond Campbell/Senior Staff Reporter

The Police Civilian Oversight Authority (PCOA) has released a damning report on the state of a number of lock-ups in the four parishes that form Area One in western Jamaica. The geographic zone comprises Trelawny, St James, Westmoreland, and...

The Police Civilian Oversight Authority (PCOA) has released a damning report on the state of a number of lock-ups in the four parishes that form Area One in western Jamaica.

The geographic zone comprises Trelawny, St James, Westmoreland, and Hanover.

The PCOA said that there were serious occupation health and safety concerns in March when it carried out prisoners-in-custody (PIC) inspections at the Freeport and Barnett Street lock-ups in St James; the Negril and Savanna-la-Mar lock-ups in Westmoreland; the Falmouth and Clark’s Town lock-ups in Trelawny; and the Hanover divisional headquarters in Lucea.

In its quarterly newsletter, the PCOA said that bathroom facilities were in poor condition at all lock-ups.

“At one lock-up, only one of five shower facilities was functional, and washbasins were being used as toilets as the toilets were out of use,” the PCOA reported.

The PCOA, which was established in 2006, is a police oversight body that monitors the implementation of the Jamaica Constabulary Force (JCF) policies and observance of proper policing standards.

Toilets and showers were in a deplorable state, the PCOA stressed.

Turning to the condition of cells, the PCOA highlighted the perennial problem of poor ventilation but also pointed out that at one lock-up, only one cell was in use as the other two were prone to leakage and flooding when it rains.

Additionally, fire extinguishers at all the lock-ups required servicing. Many also had no last-service date.

Efforts to reach head of the Area One police, Assistant Commissioner of Police Clifford Chambers, for comment were unsuccessful as his phone rang without answer.

The PCOA also reported that there were inadequate physical checks of cells and perimeter patrols and poor records management.

While for the most part the lock-ups adhered to JCF policies when conducting cell searches and visits, this was not the case when conducting physical checks of cells and perimeter patrols.

Of the seven lock-ups inspected, only one met the requirement on cell checks.

According to JCF policy, physical checks should take place once every 24 hrs. This involves checking the structural integrity of cells, among other areas.

Perimeter patrols were also found wanting as only three of the lock-ups conformed to JCF policy.

The PCOA reported that the management of PIC records was in need of urgent attention.

When inspected, it was revealed that none of the lock-ups properly maintained all four of the major records: the PIC register, PIC cards, charge and prisoners’ property book, and remand book.

“Of the most concern was the remand book, where this book was either non-existent or not properly maintained at more than half of the lock-ups. In one instance, this record was last utilised in 2021, and in another case, there were instances where individuals were remanded beyond the lawful 24 hours,” the PCOA reported.

There were also concerns in relation to the documenting of important information in the charge and prisoners’ property book at all lock-ups.

The PCOA said that there were instances of missing witness signatures and prisoners’ items not seen in custody, monies not recorded by serial numbers, among other issues.

Following the PIC inspections, the PCOA organised online discussions with more than 200 justices of the peace in the four parishes and presented the findings from the inspections of lock-ups.

PCOA officials highlighted the important role that justices of the peace played in visiting police stations to monitor lock-ups and the condition of prisoners; considering applications for bail; and remanding people in custody.

“When dealing with an uncharged person, a JP may order that person to be remanded or released,” Sheldon Clarke, legal counsel at the PCOA, told justices of the peace. He emphasised that the maximum length of time that a person who is not charged with an offence could be remanded by a JP was 24 hours. Bail, he further stated, was to be considered once the person had been charged.