Jamaica: Children Improperly Detained in Police Lookups

Every day in Jamaica, children as young as ten years of age are locked in dark, overcrowded, filthy cells which they share with rodents and insects. Sometimes they are held with adults charged with serious crimes. While in the cells, the children are subjected to physical and mental abuse from police and other inmates and are often denied appropriate medical care if they are injured or ill. None of the children in the cells are able to go to school or allowed outside to play in the sun. Most children are detained in these cells in police lockups for adults because they are suspected of offenses. Other children, who are in need of care because they have been abused, neglected, abandoned or labelled "uncontrollable" by their guardians end up in police lockups because police fail to move them to more appropriate places designed for children, usually because the places are overcrowded or far away. Some children stay only a few days, others remain in detention in nightmarish conditions for weeks and even months. Sadly, the Jamaica Constabulary Force (the police), judges, lawyers, and social workers are all aware that children, especially those from lower-income groups, are regularly held in police lockups. Although international and Jamaican human rights and legal organizations have publicly denounced these lockups as "horrifying," "unfit for animals," and "inhumane," children in Jamaica continue to be held in lockups across the island while they are awaiting determinations of their fates. Human Rights Watch has concluded that children are regularly arrested and detained for lengthy periods in police lockups whose conditions are deplorable and where children are physically and mentally abused in violation of Articles 37 (on protection from cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment) and 40 (on due process of the law) of the UNCRC. The detention of children in these facilities is also in contravention of other international human rights standards, as well as Jamaica's own Juveniles Act.

Most Viewed