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Ex-con complains of ‘deplorable’ conditions at HMP

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Another former prisoner has complained about what he described as deplorable conditions at Her Majesty’s Prisons (HMP), White Chapel, Kingstown.

The man spoke to SEARCHLIGHT on Monday and said that he prefers to remain anonymous, as he is not sure that he will be able to stay away from prison and if he goes back, the possibility exists that he would be victimized for being vocal.{{more}}

The young man, who was released from the HMP’s remand centre about two weeks ago, is calling on the relevant authorities to quickly do something about the conditions that many young people are living under at the HMP.

He cited bad food and an inadequate diet, inhumane treatment and beatings, lack of proper access to family and lawyers and the presence of rodents and insects as some of the main issues.

The former inmate noted that what makes matters worse is that under the law, a person is innocent until proven guilty, but while on remand, it is as though one is being punished, even though one has not been given a sentence.

Speaking about the food, the man said that, in his opinion, the diet of mainly rice, turkey or chicken and bread is inadequate, as the diet is not supplemented by fruits or vegetables. The canteen provides for sale what he considers “kids snacks”.

“To me it is whatever they can scramble to give them to eat; no vegetable or fruits so that can clearly speak for itself; not a proper diet,” said the former prisoner.

Inmates are fed at around 7:30 a.m. (bread and tea), then again at 11 a.m. (rice and chicken or turkey) and for the last time at 2 p.m. (bread and tea).

“From 2 p.m. to 7 a.m. the next morning is approximately 17 hours without a meal and to make it worse, the authorities want to limit the amount of vegetables and fruits your loved ones can send to you, when they themselves should be providing such as part of the inmate diet and are not.

“If the prison, which at this stage is over populated, has 260 inmates, 230 with no doubt are sleeping on the floor, while 30 sleeping on bunks which have been there since in the 90s.

“These bunks, however, aren’t much better than the floor and are infested with bugs, not to mention the condition of the walls in those cells, where the paint is damaged to the core and filled with blood spots from a daily kill of bugs for years in those cells,” said the former HMP resident.

He said that he once spent a few days in an area of the prison known as the dormitory and while there he saw centipedes, ants, roaches, rats and other bugs and while public health officials sometimes visit, little to nothing is accomplished when prisoners complain.

“The inmates are also asking what is the purpose for the team of elderly personel, the visiting justices, who supposed to listen to the cry of the inmates, but do not seem to care much, because no changes making on all the reports they have received,” commented the man, who was locked up for over 10 months and is also calling for training for officers who work at HMP.

“The inmates getting one hour recreation and at times they are being locked down all day, sometimes two days straight; no one cares,” argued the former prisoner, who revealed that he was on remand for attempted murder and assault.

He said that officers need to be trained, so that they act professionally at work and not just to search for cigarettes, marijuana or phones. He also alleged that inmates are beaten regularly for minor offences by both junior and senior officers.

Citing other issues, the former prisoner said that it is difficult for persons to get appointments to see family members; the prison leaks and inmates get wet when it rains, while inmates find it almost impossible to make phone calls.

“For years now, that institution [has] probably taken away or found over two to three sacks of cell-ular phones and they still trying to get another three to five sacks, so instead of doing so, they can implement a system by which phones can be placed into a locker, so that the inmates can get to call their families to send them whatever they may need.”

He said that during his stay at the prison, he once tried to get a call to his lawyer and it took him “days” to do so and “…others I have seen never got a call to reach their families till a period of time past, while there is not even a television or radio in a cell…it’s just inhumane treatment at that place.

“Magistrates and judges need to look into this institution before making a sentencing decision to a person; even the difficulties for one to get bail having to be there for long…these situations should be considered. The men are also asking the SVG Human Rights Association to look into the HMP conditions. Inmates are being kept in a clustered environment, men with a mixture of sicknesses and health issues piled together, the insane and the normal together,” said the angry man.

Superintendent of Prisons Brendon Charles declined to comment on the allegations.(LC)

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