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Commissioner of corrections should go

Published:Tuesday | February 23, 2010 | 12:00 AM
Prime Minister Bruce Golding comforts one of the inmates of the Armadale Juvenile Correctional Centre in St Ann, last year after five girls were burnt to death in May 2009 at the home. - File

Raymoth Notice, Contributor

TEN YEARS ago, there was an enquiry into the beating of more than 200 prisoners at the St Catherine Adult Correctional Centre. As medical officer at that time for the prison, it was about four days later I learnt of the beatings, not from the then minister of national security and justice, commissioner of corrections or superintendent of that prison, but from a journalist at
The Gleaner
. I am still convinced the beatings carried out was a strategic attempt to 'take back control of the prison' - a collaboration between the department of correctional service and the state's security forces and army. I have witnessed some of the worst injuries inflicted to humans/inmates that will never leave my brain's photo album. These were painful experiences and its recurrence indicates that the way authorities treat prisons have not changed.

Inhumane conditions

I was eager to create change and consequently accepted the invitation of the then opposition Jamaica Labour Party to enter the political arena. I resigned from the Department of Corrections and rose to the challenge. Ten years have past and I continue to be critical of inhumane prison conditions, as the changes I hoped for hasn't come.

I have said publicly that the prison's service is at its lowest grade. The Department of Corrections is top heavy with managers having poor insight to prisoner's needs and equipped with incorrect correctional management skills. I wish someone in my government would have listened to me.

The Armadale's damning report is only a tip of the explicit negligence and uncaring feature of prison managers. Talk to the correctional officers. Their overwhelming yell ask, "what's happening in the prison?"

As our prison crises continue to be told to the rest of the world, as evident in Google search, the time has come for change. That change that will help prisoners to be rehabilitated and accepted into communities as citizens with the potential to live decent lives. For this to happen, their safety must be guaranteed by the state. They must, therefore, be protected from rape, beatings and parasite agents (lice/crab louses). Proper living conditions, medical services and an attitude for correctional reform adopted.

I, therefore, must support the call for the immediate removal of the commissioner of corrections. Many of us have been crying for the restoration of hope. I have wept many times, as the pain felt by many of our citizens remains untreated. I hope our Government understands our pain and our cries. The time for change has come.

Councillor Dr Raymoth Notice is a former prison doctor