"Nobody's Children"

Jamaican Children in Police Detention and Government Institutions

In the island nation of Jamaica, many children-often as young as twelve or thirteen-are detained for long periods, sometimes six months or more, in filthy and overcrowded police lockups, in spite of international standards and Jamaican laws that forbid such treatment. The children are often held in the same cells as adults accused of serious crimes, vulnerable to victimization by their cellmates and to ill-treatment by abusive police; and virtually always, they are held in poor conditions, deprived of proper sanitary facilities, adequate ventilation, adequate food, exercise, education, and basic medical care. Some of these children have not been detained on suspicion of criminal activity but have been locked up only because they are deemed in need of care and protection. Human Rights Watch visited five working police lockups in Jamaica in late August to early September 1998 and interviewed more than thirty children about their experiences in the lockups. About half of the children we spoke to were in lockups at the time of the interviews, and the remaining children were interviewed after their transfer from police lockups to other government institutions.