The entrance to the Tower Street Adult Correctional Centre in Kingston
INMATES at the Tower Street Adult Correctional Centre are crying out for attention from the management of the prison for better ‘living’ conditions.
Popularly known as General Penitentiary, the prison, which was built to house 800 inmates, now accommodates more than double that number, with an audit last March revealing that there were 1,659 men housed there.
“The conditions here are inhumane,” one inmate told the Jamaica Observer by cellular phone, a gadget that he is not allowed to use, but said he had to contact this newspaper so that people on the outside could get a feeling of what is happening on the inside.
One of the problem blocks, the inmate said, was H North, which he claimed has no bathroom facilities, and causes severe discomfort for prisoners. His allegation was corroborated by another inmate who came on the line. Raw sewage, they said, runs through the cell block, leaving a pungent, unbearable scent. “This is more than torture.
They sent us here to rehabilitate us, but instead the system is designed to harden us,” one said. “If the prisoners on the H North block want to urinate, they have to cut a bottle and hang it up, then they drop it off down a Belgium. “If we waan pass faeces, we have to get a scandal bag before lockdown time, and tie it up ’till morning, then throw it away down a Belgium,” he said.
The Belgium they referred to is another section of the prison that inmates are allowed to frequent when they are allowed out of their cells, and where items, such as garbage, are deposited.
The prisoners also said that there are several incidents daily of inmates stabbing each other, but many of the disputes arise from quarrels over the disposal of human waste. “That always cause stabbing up, because a man will seh yu fi keep it down deh so, or up deh so, and another man will seh, mi naa keep it down ya so,” another inmate told the Sunday Observer.
“Up to all six prisoner get stab some days and the prison people dem a hold it down (not reporting such incidents). “Sometimes when yu complain, the warder dem beat up the prisoner dem … buss up dem face, lick dem up inna dem head,” the inmates said.
Prison authorities contacted Friday declined to comment on the claims by prisoners. One senior correctional officer who literally begged that his name is not mentioned by this newspaper, said that some of the things were true, but little could be done about them at this time.
The officer, who said that he was not authorised to speak publicly on such matters, acknowledged, as fact, charges levelled at some prison officials that they often went out of their way to rough up inmates.
“There are professional people in the system, but like in every field, there are some who do not follow the rules,” said the officer, again insisting that his identity be kept secret.
Claims were also filed by a relative along with a friend of one inmate serving a sentence at the penitentiary that countless prisoners have been struck down by the mosquito-borne chikungunya virus, and no medical attention has been given to them.
“One man has been in there for 15 years and has been suffering from internal bleeding for that entire period. The doctor recommended that he goes to hospital and until now that has not been done,” the relative of the inmate said. “Lots of insane prisoners are put with the normal ones and that causes a lot of fussing and fighting.
“The food is terrible, and the specific needs of the inmates are not met. Even if doctors say that some patients should eat this or that, the prison authorities do nothing to satisfy those needs, which sometimes cause some inmates to go on hunger strike, something that the general public does not know,” the relative said.
As for sleeping arrangements, the relative said that if sponge is not bought for their incarcerated relatives, they end up having to sleep on the ground. “The system is breeding more criminals. Going inside there only makes prisoners come out worse… it does nothing for their rehabilitation.
Ms (Jevene) Bent was doing a world of good down there until she left,” the relative said in reference to the former Deputy Commissioner of Police Jevene Bent who went on to become the first woman Commissioner of Corrections, serving for a short period before she left the job earlier this year.