Fri | May 7, 2021

Letter of the Day | Prison visitors treated with indignity

Published:Tuesday | June 7, 2016 | 12:00 AM


When my partner was taken into custody and sentenced to eight years in prison while I was abroad working to invest in our business in Jamaica, I was unsure of what to do and where to go. It was very difficult for me to get any information as to how he was, what he needed, and where he would spend his imprisonment.

Eventually, I had a response from the prison service to let me know what day I could visit. I had last seen my spouse in December. He was incarcerated in February. I planned to travel in May. I spoke with the superintendent at Tower Street advising him of my travel dates as my stay was going to be short - just 14 days. I was told not to worry; just turn up with my passport and TRN and they would discuss visitation on my arrival.

I arrived in Jamaica on a Saturday evening and I travelled to Tower Street early Monday morning but was told that the system had recently changed and I needed to get two pictures signed by a Justice of the Peace and fill out the registration form so they could check out my background. I was told I could speak to the superintendent and ask for special permission to see my spouse. I waited all day and saw many mainly women come and go, treated with little more dignity than cattle.

I eventually saw the superintendent, who told me I would need to follow new procedure, although he had told me something different prior to me travelling. It took me all day Tuesday to find a JP and get the photos stamped and signed. I travelled back to Kingston on the next available date for the visit, which was the Thursday, and was promptly told that my registration would take seven days! This would take me to the following Thursday, two days before I was scheduled to leave the island.

I was given permission to see my partner just once during my 14-day trip home. The visit lasted five minutes in a room with maybe 10 others who stood at a glass screen unable to hear anything because of the noise. It was so undignified. Why are visitors treated like we have been sentenced as well?

We have done nothing wrong. We are just trying to keep our lives together with our loved ones. Do not rob these mainly women of time to discuss family and business issues with inmates. Allow visitors from abroad to register online or have express registration so that the inmate may get time with their loved ones. Please spare a thought for those left behind who are trying to support the inmate.