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Haiti - Justice : Gustavo Gallón harshly judge the Haitian prison system
"[...] On average, more than 70 per cent of those detained in Haiti continue to be held in prolonged detention. The situation in the Port-au-Prince National Penitentiary has worsened dramatically : the average length of pre-trial detention increased from 624 days to 1,100 days (or 3 years), according to a study by the Minustah in December 2016. If we count inmates for more than two years and those who, although detained for less than two years, have not seen a magistrate in the last six months, it can be said that 91% of all persons detained in the National Penitentiary awaiting trial are deprived of their liberty unlawfully or arbitrarily, an increase of 23% since 2014.
If the situation of prolonged detainees were resolved, there would be no overcrowding in Haitian prisons. At present, it reaches 358%, as in the 7,359 m2 of total detention area, in the 19 prisons of the Directorate of Prison Administration (DAP), there should not be more than 2,944 detainees to meet the DAP's target of 2.5m2 per person [...] Taking into account the UN-acceptable area of 4.5m2 per prisoner, the overcrowding rate reached 644%. In other words, the capacity of Haiti's prisons only accommodates 1,635 inmates instead of the current 10,538 [As at 31 December 2016]
This excessive level of overpopulation also explains the high degree of death in prison, which is even more evident in 2016 due to the strike of public hospitals; While previously for the same number of severe cases of illness or malnutrition, aggravated by overcrowding, some patients were transferred to the hospital. Such a transfer has not been possible in recent months, and the number of deaths recorded in prisons has increased enormously, making it possible to discover the magnitude of the problem of the death of prisoners in the prison environment.
At the current rate, the projections for the whole of 2017 give a total of 229 prisoners who have died in prison, an annual mortality rate of 21.8 per 1,000.
It is clear that the issue of prolonged detention deserves to be resolved as soon as possible, as has been persistently recommended. The Provisional Government had appointed a presidential commission in September 2016 to deal with the problem. Unfortunately, the Government has not allocated the necessary budgetary resources to do its work. However, the activities of this Commission with the Government Commissioners and the prisons of Croix-de-Bouquet, Petit Goave and Port-au-Prince, resulted in the release of about one hundred detainees temporarily and prolonged detained. The Ministry for the Status of Women has also been concerned with the situation and has acted with the Ministry of Justice to release some 184 women prisoners in 2016, plus one woman sentenced with terminal cancer [...]
Another Commission on the situation of prisons has recently been appointed by the new President. It is hoped that it will continue the efforts of the previous Commission so that there is a real solution in the short term. It is a situation that creates a state of daily violations of the rights of most detainees: both those in prolonged detention and those suffering the negative consequences of prison overcrowding, including health. These are inhuman and degrading conditions. All judges and judicial officials, as well as the entire population, should visit the prisons to observe closely the disgrace to which the persons deprived of liberty are subjected in this country.
This time I visited Hinche prison. It is a new building, inaugurated on January 30, 2017, which replaced the former prison where there were 279 prisoners in 120 square meters, a rate of overpopulation of 1.045% compared to a parameter of 4.5 m2 per individual. The new building, which has a capacity of about 400 people, has housed 292 prisoners (Including 143 convicted prisoners including one woman and 149 prisoners, including five women and seven male minors). The authorities informed that there was no one in prolonged detention. Each cell has 8 beds made of concrete, which would be enough to provide a bed for each detainee, but I found cells with 14 people where prisoners are forced to share their bed, while next to it there are cells. Of the 40 cells there were 10 that were empty. This demonstrates that some civil servants have a mindset of space reduction for detainees that goes beyond the physical capacity of the existing infrastructure, a mentality that makes no sense and that it would be appropriate to correct that as soon as possible."