"Sometimes juveniles are very violent, more violent than adults. So at times we have to keep them here."
- Superintendent Adams, Spanish Town Station.90
"We try to treat [juveniles] well, but some of them don't deserve it."
- Inspector Broomfield, Gun Court Station91
Human Rights Watch visited the police lockup at Spanish Town on August 25, 1998. The antiquated facility contains ten cells, each of which measures ten by ten feet and is intended to hold five persons, for a total stated capacity of fifty detainees. On the day of our visit, however, we were informed by Superintendent Adams, the officer in charge at Spanish Town, that it held 138 detainees.92
Conditions inside the Spanish Town cells were appalling. Tiny slats in the concrete wall towards the back of each cell provided the only source of light and fresh air. Detainees consequently suffered from a near total absence of light and ventilation, and the level of heat within the cells was unbearable. Together with the severe overcrowding-cells designed for five held thirteen or fourteen prisoners each-these conditions constitute blatant violations of the U.N. and Beijing Rules.
Although some cells contained toilets, most of these were broken, and prisoners told us that often guards refused to let them out to use the filthy but functional toilets located at the end of the cell block. Consequently, detainees were often forced to urinate and defecate in buckets inside the cells, or, in the absence of a bucket, to simply relieve themselves on the floor, exacerbating the already severely substandard sanitary conditions.
The cell floors were filthy, often damp and covered with scattered bits of cardboard and newspaper, which served as the prisoners' only bedding material. Apart from the two or three detainees able to lay claim to the one or two concrete bunk slabs in each cell (none with mattresses or other bedding), prisoners reported that they slept crowded together on the floors. Cockroaches and other insects infest the cells, and many prisoners displayed insect bites.
The police provide medical treatment on an emergency basis only. We interviewed one young man who suffered from chronic asthma, a boy who had oozing sores on his legs and who wept as he spoke to us, and a third man who complained of hearing loss and who had a greenish discharge coming from his ears. None of these individuals had been permitted to see a physician and none had been provided with medication.
The food in Spanish Town, by all accounts, is as poor and scarce as medical care or bedding: many detainees told us that the prison food made them ill, and other prisoners stated flatly that they eat only food that is brought to them by their relatives and friends during visiting hours.
The overwhelming majority of the detainees held in the Spanish Town lockup were unconvicted "remand" prisoners who were awaiting trial. Although some were accused of serious crimes, many were held on suspicion of participation in relatively trivial offenses. Prisoners were not separated by either age or status (convicted or unconvicted); and status offenders and those accused of petty crimes were held in the same cells as men detained for violent crimes. Towards the front of the cell block, three prisoners were held in isolation. According to a guard, they were in personal danger from fellow prisoners,93 although these individuals told Human Rights Watch that they believed they had been quarantined for contagious illness.94
At times, the detainees told us, fights break out among the prisoners, typically over access to scarce material goods, such as cigarettes, food, and money,or over access to sleeping space on the filthy cell floors: overcrowding is so severe that in most cells not everyone can lie down at once. Violence between cellmates was also sometimes motivated by clashing loyalties to political parties, gangs, or neighborhoods. Both guards and detainees told us that guards often resort to violence to break up fighting. Some detainees told us that the police treated them "okay," while others exhibited wounds that they ascribed to unprovoked police violence.
The Spanish Town police lockup is officially for adults only. In our initial interview with superintendent Adams, he stated unequivocally that "[j]uveniles are not kept at Spanish Town,"95 but he also conceded that seven "juveniles" had recently been "processed" at Spanish Town and sent on to the Ewarton substation. Notwithstanding these statements, a categorization of the prisoners inscribed in chalk at the entrance to the cell block and dated August 25, 1998, indicated that ten juveniles were detained at Spanish Town.
Our interviews at the Spanish Town lockup, though limited in number by difficulties in speaking to children privately, confirmed that children were held there, in violation of both Jamaican law and international standards. We managed to speak to five seventeen-year-olds, two sixteen-year olds, and one boy who was fifteen.
C Winston, fifteen, had been detained for approximately six months at the time of our visit, and was held in a cell with eleven adult prisoners.
C Harold and Jason, the two sixteen-year-olds, had been detained for several months, and Harold exhibited a large scar on his head that he said was the result of a recent police beating with batons.
Numerous adult prisoners also confirmed that it was not uncommon for fifteen and sixteen-year-olds to be held for several months at a time at Spanish Town.96
On September 3, 1998, Human Rights Watch visited the police lockup at Kingston Central. The detainees had apparently been told that we would visit, and many shouted to us from inside the cells, saying that they needed to talk to us and that conditions were poor.
According to Police Commissioner Francis Forbes, the cells at Kingston Central are, like the cells at Spanish Town, for adults only. But at Kingston Central, too, we found that this rule was honored only in the breach. Upon arriving at Kingston Central, we spoke briefly with Superintendent Bailey and Inspector Cleary, a custody officer at the lockup. Superintendent Bailey informed us that in practice, Kingston Central usually has enough children detained to warrant designating one of the facility's thirty-four cells as a special "juvenile cell."97
Of the thirty-four cells, only nine had functioning door locks at the time of our visit. Technically, three to seven prisoners occupy each cell at Kingston Central, depending on the cell's size. But in practice, most prisoners roam freely throughout the hallway due to the defective locks. Kingston Central's maximum stated capacity is ninety-one; on the day we visited, it held one hundred thirty-eight prisoners, of which one hundred thirty were held pending trial (remands), two were convicted, four were apparently detained awaiting transfer elsewhere, and two, according to police, were juveniles. We were told that most of the juveniles had been transferred the day before our visit, but their destination was not identified.98 Inspector Cleary remarked that, in general, the number of children detained at Kingston Central is typically under ten at any given moment, and their stay is usually of short duration, but he conceded that "sometimes juveniles stay for two to three months."99
Conditions within the cellblock were deplorable. At the entrance to the cell block's main gate, a large bin overflowed with trash, and the stench of rotting garbage and urine permeated the air. Two detainees, one of whom was identified as a crack addict and the other as mentally disturbed, were sprawled out on filthy stairs that led up to the second floor of the cellblock, where the cell designated for juveniles was situated.
By contrast to the first floor cells, the "juvenile cell" was comparatively clean: though damp, it contained no trash or sewage.100 It contained six concrete slab beds. At the time of our visit, two children, both aged sixteen, were in this cell, together with eleven adults ranging in age from eighteen to twenty-four.
C Travis, one of the sixteen-year-olds, had been detained since late June 1998. His initial court date was set for August 14, but he was remanded pending a further hearing because the complainant failed to appear.
C Ryan, the other sixteen-year-old, had been held for nine months. Although he had appeared at the family court three times during this period, he told us that was never provided with a lawyer, and had been remanded back to the lockup after each court appearance.
Both boys related that the guards serve two meals each day but complained that food is often not cooked properly; like most prisoners, they told us that they rely on visitors for adequate provisions. A hose at the far end of the cellblock provided the only bathing facility, and it suffers, the boys said, from water shortages and inadequate pressure.101
Outside the juvenile cell, prisoners roamed the cell block freely. All the detainees complained about the poor quality of the food, as well as the severe overcrowding, which compels many to sleep on the filthy, roach-infested cell floors. Several interviewees also objected that they had been denied permission to see a doctor. Jefferson, an eighteen-year-old boy, stated that "[p]eople here need to see a doctor, but they don't make them see one because they have no money."102
One constable we spoke with said that although a doctor should visit regularly, this rarely happens. Prisoners at Kingston Central, like those detained at Spanish Town, appear to receive medical care only in the case of emergencies, at which time they will be taken to a hospital.103
Although only two sixteen-year-olds were held at the time of our visit (the remainder having been transferred the previous day), several adult prisoners confirmed seeing other children held at Kingston Central. One adult prisoner, Clive Dawes, related a particularly disturbing incident that he claimed had occurred on the night preceding our visit. Tajay Brown, a sixteen-year-old, had been severely beaten by the police:
[T]hem beat the little man, the juvenile, them beat him and kick his head, them kick him into gate and step on him throat . . . .[T]hem carry him gone from [here] last night . . . Inspector Robbie, him there, but him say nothing.104
Thomas, a nineteen-year-old detainee who had been remanded four times during his two months at Kingston Central, said that he had observed an eleven-year-old boy who was detained for approximately two weeks.
Halfway Tree, a lockup notorious for poor sanitary conditions, was visited by a Human Rights Watch research team in 1994. The 1994 team found filthy and overcrowded conditions, and also found that the Halfway Tree lockup was used to detain numerous children, some as young as ten.105
On our visit to Jamaica, however, we were unable to visit the cells or speak to any detainees at the Halfway Tree lockup. Although Police Commissioner Forbes had urged us to visit Halfway Tree and had promised to arrange our visit, we were told upon our arrival at the facility that we would not be permitted to enter, "since no juveniles [were] held at Halfway Tree." 106
It seems likely that conditions at Halfway Tree are no better now than they were in 1994, although our inability to tour the cells makes it impossible for us to say for certain. Commissioner Forbes himself described the stench emanating from the Halfway Tree lockups as severe enough to make it difficult for visitors to breathe. It was of course impossible for us to ascertain whether or not any children were held at Halfway Tree on the day of our abortive attempt to visit, but several children we interviewed later, in facilities run by the Department of Children's Services, told us that they had spent time in the Halfway Tree lockups within the past two years.
The Gun Court police lockup in Kingston lies adjacent to the court building in which, as its name suggests, gun-related crimes are tried. Human Rights Watch visited the Gun Court facility on the afternoon of September 2, 1998.
Upon arriving, we were met by Inspector Broomfield, whom we interviewed briefly. Asked about the circumstances of juveniles in the Gun Court, he replied, "[W]e try to treat them well, but some of them don't deserve it."107 Inspector Broomfield introduced us to Inspector Smith, who oversees the lockup, and he informed us that seventy detainees were currently held at the Gun Court lockup but that we could not enter the cellblock itself "because of the potential for prejudicing those who would be going before an ID parade."108 The Human Rights Watch team could not privately interview any of the children held at Gun Court, although they met with a number of eighteen and nineteen-year-old detainees in a small office next to the cell block. Although the windows and door remained open and a police constable was stationed outside the open door, limited discussions were possible concerning basic conditions within Gun Court lockup.
Descriptions of conditions within the Gun Court lockup suggest that they substantially resemble the appalling conditions we found at Spanish Town.
C Ernest, an eighteen-year-old boy, told us that he had been detained for three months in a five by ten foot cell with four other adults. He complained of the absence of floor space for sleeping and described being kicked in the eye by a guard on one occasion, which, he said, caused a gash over his eye that appeared to be infected.109
C Marlon, another eighteen-year-old, had been transferred to the Gun Court from Hunt's Bay lockup on March 15, 1998, after a court appearance. He told us that he shared his five by ten foot cell with six other adults. Like Ernest, he complained of the severe overcrowding and of being forced to sleep on the filthy floor. He also stated that staff provide only one meal a day, typically a mixture of rice and chicken, but that "you can't reallyeat it because it makes you sick."110 Marlon affirmed that fist fights among the prisoners are not uncommon and that the constables often break up these fights with their batons. He described being beaten by the police on several occasions. One time, he recalled, after being refused permission to leave his cell to use the bathroom, his anger provoked four constables to beat him with their batons, causing him a head injury and nose bleed.111
C John, a 19-year old, had also been transferred from the Hunt's Bay lockup to the Gun Court Lockup. He told us that he had requested the transfer, because conditions in Hunt's Bay were particularly appalling: the heat and lack of water there made life unbearable. He described his treatment at the Gun Court in similar terms: "[The police] treat us like a dog. When we want to use the bathroom, we have to beg, and sometimes even then they ignore us. Some of the guards have human feelings, but others have none at all."112 John said that detainees are not permitted to write or receive letters, but that detainees sometimes succeed in smuggling letters in and out during visiting hours.113
Inspector Smith's list of detainees listed no detainees under the age of seventeen. Several of our sources suggested, however, that the detention of younger boys at the Gun Court is not uncommon. Since we were not permitted to visit the cells themselves, Human Rights Watch was unable to confirm the presence of children within the Gun Court.
Both Jamaican law and international standards state that detained children must be separated from adult prisoners.114 According to Police Commissioner Forbes, the Jamaican police have struggled to enforce this policy.115 Because few,if any, existing police lockups have appropriate facilities for effectively separating adult and child detainees, the Jamaican police have resorted, in some instances, to utilizing small police sub-stations-with one or two cells-as de facto "juvenile police lockups" where only children are detained.
We visited two "juvenile police lockups," Ewerton and Matilda's Corner. The physical conditions at these lockups-in terms of space, ventilation, sleeping materials, and sanitation-were as bad, and in some ways even worse than the conditions in most of the adult lockups that we visited. Moreover, in neither "juvenile lockup" did the children have the opportunity to exercise or continue their education. Many children in these lockups complained that they were not even regularly fed.
Ewarton Police Station and Juvenile Lockup
At the Spanish Town Police Station in St. Catherine-North Parish, Superintendent Adams explained that children who are picked up by police in this area are usually moved to Ewarton Police Station, some fifteen miles north of Spanish Town.116 Adams told us that children may be detained at Ewarton for six to twelve months awaiting trial (for those children charged with an offense) or relocation to a place of safety (for those children "in need of care and protection").117 When the Human Rights Watch team visited Ewarton, we discovered that almost all of the children, including those in need of care and protection, had spent several months in the lockup, in violation of Jamaican law.118 Under international standards, children in detention should have access to clean sleeping accommodations and sanitary facilities adequate to their health and privacy needs.119 During the Human Rights Watch visit to Ewarton, we found seven children, aged thirteen to sixteen years, locked up in two cells with dimensions of approximately eight by five feet. There were no mattresses, cots, or ledges for the children to sleep on. Instead, the children rested on pieces of cardboard and newspaper soaked in water from a leaking shower across the passageway. The floor was sodden, and the children themselves were damp, as there were no dry places to sit or lie down. The shower and toilet were completely open to the two cells, and afforded the children no privacy to bathe or use the toilet. From our discussion with the children and the police officers at Ewarton, we learned that the children were not permitted to leave the cells for exercise, nor did they have any access to educational materials in the dimly lit cells. Those children whose families had been contacted were able to receive visitors two times per week. According to the U.N. Rules for the Protection of Juveniles Deprived of Their Liberty, children in police custody must be provided with education, preferably at an institution away from the detention facility, medical treatment, and a physical environment with adequate provision for recreation and exercise.120
The boys held at Ewarton were charged with various offenses, from serious crimes to petty theft. Some were held because they were in need of care and protection. Although there were two cells, the police at Ewarton made no effort to separate the children according to age or severity of offense.121 None of the boys knew whether they had an attorney. Two had been detained for only a week, while the others had been detained for several months.
C Lane, a very small thirteen-year-old boy, had already spent eight months at Ewarton at the time of our visit. He had been arrested initially for stealing a radio. Before being picked up by the police, he was staying with his grandmother because his father had abandoned him and his mother had emigrated from Jamaica. Lane seemed so depressed that he could barely bring himself to speak; he told us that he did not get enough to eat and that the police "slam doors on you" when he asked them questions. He told us that in his eight months at Ewarton, he had never left his cell except to go to court. When a Human Rights Watch interviewer asked Lane what he would change at Ewarton, if he were in charge, Lane simply shrugged, and, looking down at the soggy newspaper that constituted his blanket, replied, "You can't change anything here." Later, after a pause of nearly a minute, he said, "I wish there was a bathroom. And a dry place to sleep."
C Godfrey, aged sixteen, had been in Ewarton for four months when we met him. Godfrey had no lawyer to represent him, but had appeared in court several times since being picked up by the police. A police officerexplained to us that Godfrey's case was stalled in the Family Court because his accuser never showed up to testify against him. Godfrey told us that he and the other boys would stack up the cardboard and newspaper on the floors to try to keep rats out of their cells, and that at night, they would stuff balled up bits of paper into their ears to try to keep ants and roaches from crawling into their ears as they slept.
C William, fifteen, shared Godfrey's cell. William has been in Ewarton for three months at the time of our visit. He complained of an earache, but said like Lane that the guards just slam the cell door in his face when he asks if he can see a doctor. Sergeant Mullins, who escorted the Human Rights Watch team to Ewarton, explained that there were no medical facilities for the boys here.122
Matilda's Corner Police Station and Juvenile Lockup
When the Human Rights Watch team visited the police lockup at Half-Way Tree Police Station in Kingston, the senior police officer present, Deputy Superintendent Lawrence, asserted that no juveniles were kept in Half-Way Tree.123 After thirty minutes of discussion, Deputy Superintendent Lawrence and Deputy Commissioner Fairclough (by telephone) denied us access to Half-Way Tree lockup. Lawrence insisted that all of the children brought to Half-Way Tree were transferred to a nearby police sub-station called Matilda's Corner, which was being used as a "juvenile lockup"-similar to Ewarton police lockup. Lawrence informed us that seven children were currently detained at Matilda's Corner.124
The team proceeded to Matilda's Corner where we were informed by Sergeant MacIntosh that all seven of the children detained at Matilda's Corner had been taken to Family Court shortly before our arrival that morning.125 Although there were no children in the lockup, Sergeant MacIntosh permitted us to inspect the one cell in which he said the seven children had been held until that morning. The cell was approximately five feet by ten feet with two concrete ledges against the walls. Even with the cell door wide open, the room was dark, with nowindows and only dim light coming through some small holes in the concrete walls. The cell smelled of urine and feces and the floor was wet.
We asked to see the toilet facilities and were pointed to a toilet and shower in a separate outhouse near the cell. The outhouse was entirely out of use, and we had to make our way past a row of broken-down motorcycles and bicycles to get to it. The toilet was overflowing with excrement and the shower did not work.
Sergeant MacIntosh told us that because the toilet was broken, the children urinate in the cell and the police put a hose through a crack in the wall to hose down the floor and the children. When asked about the practice of hosing down children in the cell rather than allowing them to leave the cell to use the bathroom, MacIntosh commented: "it's hot in there, they [the children] like being hosed down."126 MacIntosh also explained that children were not allowed to leave the cell for exercise during the day.127
Sergeant MacIntosh told us that the seven children who had been transferred shortly before we arrived ranged in age from twelve to sixteen years old. Four of the boys were detained because their parents could not be located, and a court decided that they were "in need of care and protection." The other three boys had been charged with various offenses.
The policy of moving children in police detention to juvenile lockups suggests that the Jamaican police are concerned with separating at least some children from adults in custody. While this policy seems well-intentioned, in practice, it has had an unfortunate secondary consequence-namely, that children are often detained in lockups characterized by physical conditions as, if not more abhorrent than many adult lockups. This is so because the separate "juvenile lockups" are often located in small, geographically remote police stations, with resources even more meager than the more centrally located "adult lockups." The physical conditions in the juvenile lockups-including space, ventilation, sanitation, and lighting-were worse than anything the team witnessed in adult lockups. Juvenile lockups thus represent an improvement insofar as they shield children from abuse at the hands of adult cellmates. But they have not ameliorated-indeed, they may inadvertently worsen-the egregious sanitary conditions in which children continue to be held.
Evidence About Other Police Lockups
In addition to speaking to some of the children held at the police lockups we visited, we also interviewed many children living in institutions run by theJamaican Children's Services Division and by the Correctional Services Department. Many of those children had been held in police lockups before being transferred to these other facilities. Their stories of their time in the lockups confirmed our observations.
C Garfield, age thirteen, told us that his mother had turned him over to the police because she felt that he was a discipline problem. The family court judge determined that Garfield was "in need of care and protection." After a stint at the Sovereign Police Station in Kingston, Garfield was transferred to Matilda's Corner. He spent almost two weeks there. He told us that the police only allowed him drinking water once a day, and that he and the other boys in the lockup had to urinate in the corner of the cell. The police, he said, occasionally hosed the cell down-and the boys along with it-by sticking a hose through the small window. During his two week stay at Matilda's Corner, Garfield was only allowed to leave his cell for one trip to the Family Court.
C Miles, thirteen, spent one night in the August Town police lockup. He told us that he was alone in the cell, which was windowless and dark, with no toilet or shower. "The cell was filled with urine, and there was no bed, so I didn't sleep, I just stood on a piece of newspaper. I had no food, just a bun. The police were horrible. I'd call to ask them to take me to a toilet and they'd never come."
C Kevin, who was sixteen when we interviewed him, told us that he had been picked up by police in October 1997, when he was fifteen, and held at the Hunt's Bay police station, a few miles west of Kingston. He told us that he spent two weeks at Hunt's Bay, where his five-by-eight-foot cell was shared by nine other detainees, most of whom were adults.
C Derek, a fifteen-year-old, was detained in the Constant Spring lockup for two weeks. He told us that he was kept in a small cell there with nine other prisoners, all adults. The benches for sleeping were inadequate for the number of people in each cell, so three of the bigger, older men slept on the concrete bunks, while Derek and the others prisoners slept on the concrete floor, using old newspapers for bedding. There was a toilet in the cell, but it did not work, and the cell was constantly filthy.
C Delroy, who was seventeen when we met him, told us of the three months he spent at the Hunt's Bay Lockup. He described his cell as "hot, nasty, and dirty." Eight prisoners, some of whom were children, shared a five-by-ten-foot cell. The cell had three concrete bunks. Two prisoners slept on each bunk, and the two others slept on the ground, which was covered with dirty newspaper. At Hunt's Bay, Delroy said, prisoners had no access to working toilets. Consequently, they had to defecate into paper bags and then toss the bags into the passage between the cells. Periodically, guards would let the prisoners into the passage to clean up. "We [would] catch a lot of disease down there," Delroy told us. He said that he became quite ill while detained at Hunt's Bay but that the police would not take him to a doctor.
C Patrick, a twelve-year-old who had initially been detained at Matilda's Corner, told us that the police there only gave him bread and tea to eat, so he was always hungry.
C Richard, thirteen, spent two weeks in a cell at the Hanover police station. His cellmates were three other boys. "They locked me in a dark cell. They gave us tea and bread, but that was all, and it was not enough, and not fresh. There were no windows, and we stayed in the cell all day. It had no toilet. The police were mostly easy on us because we were young, but if we called out too much they got rough."
C Steve, fifteen, spent a month at the Spanish Town lockup. He was in a cell with adults. He told us that the food rations were usually spoiled and that the police beat him up when he complained.
C David, thirteen, was left alone when his mother went to jail. The police picked him up because he was begging on the campus of the university in Kingston. He told us that the police were "rough": when he said he did not want to go with them they grabbed him by the throat. He was put in a police lockup for three days "in a room with kids and big men who were scary." He was given soup once a day, but said it was not enough to eat.
C Michael, a fifteen-year-old boy whose father was unable to care for him and whose mother had disappeared, was detained at the Point Hill lockup after he was accused of stealing his guardian's money. He stayed at thatlockup for two weeks. During that time, he was given food only every two days, used a bucket as a toilet, and slept on the floor of his cell.
C Charmaine, a thirteen-year-old girl, was taken from home by the police, along with her younger siblings, ages six and seven. She told us that she did not understand why she and her siblings had been taken from home. They were held for twenty-four hours at a Granville police station, where they slept on a bench in the office and were given no food.
C Dennis, sixteen, reported that he spent three months in a cell with adults at the Annatto Bay lockup. "There were ten of us in a small cell. There was only grill ventilation and not much light, just one light bulb out in the passage. We had no bedding, and slept on the concrete. We had bread given to us three times a day. No school, no books. There were four cells, and six police officers to guard them. Sometimes the police would fight with prisoners. I had sinus problems, but they wouldn't let me see a doctor. The worst things were that it was dirty and there was not enough to eat, just bread. The police would take things away from you, too, if you had anything visitors brought you."
The Convention on the Rights of the Child128 and the United Nations Rules for the Protection of Juveniles Deprived of their Liberty129 require that any facility used to detain children must conform to certain minimum health standards and assure children adequate health care, "both preventive and remedial."130 Needless to say, detention of Jamaican children in filthy conditions in police lockups violates the children's rights. Such police lockups also constitute a major public health danger.
During our visits to lockups, almost all of which were in crowded metropolitan areas, we repeatedly found that there were no functional toilets or showers, and the stench in the lockups was overwhelming. Overcrowded cells, particularly when combined with a lack of basic sanitation, are a breeding ground for contagious diseases via both fecal-oral contact and airborne routes. Conditions in police lockups pose a public health risk to the detainees, as well as to the police who guard them, and potentially to the people in surrounding areas.
Just as egregiously, in the midst of such appalling conditions and the clear medical risk they present, children and other detainees told us that they were denied access to medical care. The lack of basic medical care was confirmed by our interviews with guards in the lockups, who told us that prisoners saw doctors only on rare occasions.
Similarly, our interviews suggested that many detainees received inadequate food and drinking water. Indeed, most children who received meals got them once a day and even then, some only received biscuits and tea. Often, the children relied on food taken to them by relatives. This violates the requirement that inmates be provided sufficient food and safe drinking water as set forth in the Standard Minimum Rules for the Treatment of Prisoners.131
The children we met were locked in sweltering, poorly ventilated cells all day, generally with little room for moving around freely, given the overcrowded conditions. Yet few children reported being permitted to walk around the passageway of the lockups, let alone go outside for fresh air and exercise. This is in violation of international standards which entitles children in detention facilities to "daily free exercise" and to an environment which allows for physical exercise.132
The U.N. Rules explicitly give detained children the right to education and vocational training.133 But all of the children we met reported receiving no education at all during their time in the lockups, not even a book, even when their detention lasted for months on end. The few children we met who had books-mostly religious tracts and Bibles-told us that the books had been brought by their relatives.
Jamaican children held in police lockups are deprived of their most basic human rights. They are held for long periods-often many months-in overcrowded, filthy cells in life-threatening conditions. They receive inadequate food, and spend twenty-four hours breathing in sweltering, fetid air. Although the children are often being held for petty offenses or because they are neglected or abused and are awaiting proper placement, they are often kept in cells with violent adult offenders, and they are at risk of being preyed upon by both older prisoners and by abusive police guards. They rarely have attorneys to represent them, and they are caught up in a dysfunctional court system that abandons them in lockups simply because the legal process is slow and the system does not know what else to do with them.
At the suggestion of Police Commissioner Forbes, we visited the Portmore Police Station's new lockup to examine a facility that Forbes sees as modern and humane in a way the older police lockups are not.134 The Portmore facility was still in the final stages of construction when we visited, and no detainees were present. Nonetheless, it was clear that conditions at the Portmore lockup could represent a vast improvement over those we saw at Spanish Town, Ewarton, the Gun Court, Matilda's Corner, and Kingston Central. Three separate cell blocks-intended to hold, respectively, forty men, fifteen women, and ten children-extended in a T-shaped figure from a centrally located, elevated guard post, constructed to permit security officers simultaneous supervision of the detainees in each corridor. The cells were equipped with sliding doors with tamper-proof locks and slatted windows that provided reasonable ventilation. Each also contained tamper-proof running water and toilet facilities, as well as five concrete bunks, one for each prisoner.
Moreover, three additional separate cells had been designated expressly for (1) sick prisoners who might require quarantine; (2) prisoners who might need to be isolated for violence or disciplinary problems; and (3) prisoners in transit who would be held for a very short period of time (under twenty-four hours). The facility was additionally equipped with glass communication booths, permitting detainees to converse with counsel, relatives, or friends through telephones on either side of the glass. Outside the cells a fenced courtyard provided a secure space for exercise. Superintendent McDonald, who oversees the Portmore facility, informed us that a doctor's office would be constructed on the premises and that a physician would visit at least once each week.135
Portmore, at least in terms of the physical plant, represents an improvement. Human Rights Watch could not evaluate its effectiveness in practice, since the lockup was not in use. Nonetheless, some preliminary observations bear emphasis. First, the construction of facilities like Portmore (we were informed that a similar lockup was currently undergoing construction in Montego Bay)136 represents a step towards greater compliance with international human rights standards for detainees. Portmore potentially offers better ventilation, the capacity to separate different classes of prisoners (though Portmore, too, was not designedto segregate prisoners by status), and an area for exercise and modern sanitary facilities.
Yet at the same time, Superintendent McDonald, who oversees Portmore, remarked that "[t]his lockup was built with prisoners and juveniles in mind,"137 a statement in some tension with Commissioner Forbes' assurance that the police have ceased to detain children in police lockups. It appears, in short, that new facilities like Portmore, while clearly reflecting an improvement in lockup conditions, are being constructed under the assumption that children will continue to be held at police lockups.
Intentional Police Abuse
If a kid knows he'll get twenty strops on his buttocks, it's a deterrent. I believe in the scripture: don't spare the rod, or you spoil the child.
- Neville Webb, Jamaica Union of Correctional Officers138
"We have overcrowding [in lockups] because we have to keep all these unconvicted prisoners. That's when you get atrocities . . . ."
- Francis Forbes, Commissioner of Police139
During our interviews with children in different parts of the system, the Human Rights Watch team commonly heard stories of low-level abuse140 and neglect and several accounts of serious physical and sexual abuse by police. Compounding this problem, when incidents of police abuse occur, neither the police nor other agencies responsible for children appear capable of discovering the abuse, treating the abused child, or disciplining the guilty officer.
Physical and Sexual Abuse
Under the Convention on the Rights of the Child, states party are required to "take all appropriate legislative, administrative, social and educational measures to protect the child from all forms of physical or mental violence, injury or abuse, neglect or negligent treatment, maltreatment or exploitation, including sexual abuse, while in the care of parent(s), legal guardian(s) or any other person who has the care of the child."141
Notwithstanding the declared commitments to reform of the leadership of the Jamaican police, the Human Rights Watch team heard of one recent instance of sexual abuse and several incidents of other types of physical abuse.
C Julia, fifteen, was interviewed in a temporary home run by the Children's Services Division. She told us that she had left home because her father beat her and cut her with a machete. She stayed briefly with her aunt but was beaten with an electrical cord by her aunt's boyfriend. When she ran away from her aunt's home, Julia was picked up by the police and brought to the local police station as a child "in need of care and protection." Because the cells in the local police lockup were filled with adult men, Julia was forced to sleep on the concrete floor in the passageway between cells. During her second night in the lockup, she said, a police officer came to her and asked her age. When she told him, he asked if she had ever had sex. She said no and said that he tied her down with a belt and forcibly had sex with her and beat her.142
Julia's story demonstrates powerfully the danger of detaining children in police lockups143-even for "a couple of days." When we interviewed Julia one week after the incident she was experiencing lower abdominal pain and a burning sensation when she urinated. She told us that she had not told anyone about beingraped. Nor had she received any medical attention. When asked why she had not told anyone of the rape, Julia expressed fear that the staff would tell the other children at the place of safety and that she would become an outcast. While Julia was reluctant to discuss the rape with staff at Glenhope, she also informed Human Rights Watch that no one had asked her about her stay in police custody.144 Although this was the only account we heard of sexual abuse by the Jamaican police, accounts of physical abuse were common. Many of the boys we spoke with during visits to places of safety and the Juvenile Remand Center also reported instances of physical abuse by the police.
C Warren, a sixteen-year-old whom we interviewed at the Homestead Place of Safety, recalled abuse by police during his two week stay in Point Hill Police Station.145 Warren left his parents' home after problems with his father, and went to stay with friends of his parents. After some time there, he was accused of stealing money from the house and brought to the police station. Warren told us that the police beat him with an electrical cord, both in his cell and in the guard room. According to Warren, the police beat him in order to get him to confess to stealing the money.146
C Joseph, a sixteen-year-old we met at the juvenile remand center, described police abuse during his stay in Hunt's Bay police lockup. Joseph was picked up by the police when he was fifteen for gun possession. He spent two weeks in Hunt's Bay lockup and described being beaten by three or four policemen at a time. He told us that he was beaten so badly that his foot was broken.147
Several other boys also told us about being beaten by the police with batons and sticks during their stays in police lockups.148
Neglect, Rough Treatment, Mental Abuse
In addition to these reports of serious sexual and physical abuse, the majority of the children interviewed by Human Rights Watch reported rough treatment in police custody, ranging from neglect to mental abuse. During our visit to the Gun Court Police Station, Inspector Broomfield commented on the treatment of children in custody by police. He said, "We try to treat them well but they don't deserve it."149 This comment seemed to capture the attitude of many police that we interviewed. The Jamaican police appear to view the children in their custody as criminals first and foremost-and as children only secondarily.
While inadequate resources and poor facilities may partially explain the appalling conditions that children face in police lockups, police attitudes toward juveniles in their custody also provide part of the answer. From our interviews with juveniles and police, it is clear that children in police custody are deprived of adequate water, restricted in their use of the toilet and shower, denied any exercise, and, in some instances, forced to stay in cells with adults. In one instance, referred to briefly above, a Jamaican police officer at Matilda's Corner explained why it was necessary to have children urinate in their cells and hose them down through a hole in the wall rather than taking them outside of the cell to use the toilet. He said: "We can't allow them outside. These children are dangerous and they might escape."150
This statement reflects an attitude that seemed to be nearly ubiquitous among lower-ranking police officials: to most of the police, children are assumed guilty-and dangerous-until proven innocent, and they are treated as violent felons regardless of their age and regardless of whether they are held for an offense or for their own protection.
In none of the adult lockups that we visited during our stay in Jamaica were adult detainees denied all access to the toilets (although in most lockups access to toilets was unjustifiably limited). Yet at Matilda's Corner, where five of the seven children detained had not even been charged with a criminal offense, the police officer in charge forced the children to urinate in their own cells rather than permitting them to leave the cell and go to the toilet ten feet away. The degree of squalor and humiliation detained children must endure seems calculated to erode their sense of dignity and self-worth, while inevitably proving injurious to their physical and mental health.
Inadequate Responses to Police Abuse
Based upon the Human Rights Watch team's interviews, other Jamaican agencies dealing with children who have spent time in police lockups frequently fail to identify instances of police abuse and are therefore unable to provide an abused child with proper care. None of the places of safety that we visited had a formal intake interview for new children. While the police frequently bring children to places of safety, few of the staff in these homes seem to ask the children about their treatment in police custody. Even when instances of police abuse are uncovered, a child may wait several days before receiving medical attention. The team encountered a similar situation in the Juvenile Remand Center.
When police abuse occurs, institutional responses are inadequate. The Jamaican police have an Office of Professional Responsibility which handles civilian complaints, yet several local human rights observers complained that this was an ineffective mechanism for dealing with police abuse. One source observed that there is a conflict of interest in having a branch of the police investigating other police. When there are investigations into abuses, they are frequently delayed for years and send unclear messages to those police guilty of abuses.
92 Human Rights Watch interview with Superintendent Adams, August 29, 1998. A survey written in chalk at the entrance to the cells further classified the detainees into categories such as "convicted," "unconvicted," "in need of care and protection," and "hospital." Moreover, while Superintendent Adams informed us that no juveniles were currently detained at Spanish Town, the same chalked schedule included the category "juveniles," and indicated that ten were currently in detention.
93 Human Rights Watch interview with security officer (name withheld), Spanish Town Police Station, August 29, 1998.
94 Human Rights Watch interviews, Spanish Town Police Station, Jamaica, August 29, 1998.
95 Human Rights Watch interview with Superintendent Adams, August 29, 1998.
96 Human Rights Watch interviews with detainees (names withheld), Spanish Town Police Station, Jamaica, September 28, 1998.
97 Human Rights Watch interview with Superintendent Bailey, Kingston Central Police Station, Kingston, Jamaica, September 3, 1998.
99 Human Rights Watch interview with Inspector Cleary, Kingston Central Police Station, Kingston, Jamaica, September 3, 1998.
100 We were told by the prisoners, however, that the cells had been hosed down in preparation for our visit, and sewage hosed outside: thus the severe stench right outside the cell block.
101 Human Rights Watch interviews, Kingston Central Police Station, Kingston, Jamaica, September 3, 1998.
102 Human Rights Watch interview, Kingston Central Police Station, Kingston, Jamaica, September 3, 1998.
103 Human Rights Watch interview with constable (name withheld), Kingston Central Police Station, Kingston, Jamaica, September 3, 1998.
104 Human Rights Watch interview, Kingston Central Police Station, Kingston, Jamaica, September 3, 1998.
105 Human Rights Watch, Jamaica: Children Improperly Detained (New York: Human Rights Watch, 1994), pp. 15-16.
106 Human Rights Watch interview with Deputy Superintendent Lawrence, Halfway Tree Police Station, Jamaica, September 2, 1998, and telephone interview with Superintendent Fairclough at police headquarters, Kingston, Jamaica, September 2, 1998.
107 Human Rights Watch interview with Inspector Broomfield, Gun Court Police Station, Kingston, Jamaica, September 2, 1998.
108 Human Rights Watch interview with Inspector Smith, Gun Court Police Station, Kingston, Jamaica, September 2, 1998.
109 Human Rights Watch interview, Gun Court Police Station, Kingston, Jamaica, September 2, 1998.
110 Human Rights Watch interview, Gun Court Police Station, Kingston, Jamaica, September 2, 1998.
112 Human Rights Watch interview, Gun Court Police Station, Kingston, Jamaica, September 2, 1998.
114 See Juveniles Act, Art. 17; Beijing Rules, Art. 13.3; U.N. Rules, Art. See also Standard Minimum Rules, Art. 30.
115 Human Rights Watch interview with Francis Forbes, August, 28, 1998.
116 Human Rights Watch interview with Superintendent Adams, August 29, 1998.
118 Pursuant to the Jamaica Juveniles Act, a court can issue an interim order remanding a child for up to thirty days, but "children in need of care and protection" should not be remanded more than twice.
119 U.N. Rules, Art. 42.
120 U.N. Rules, Arts. 38-40, 47, 49.
121 Article 8 of the Standard Minimum Rules provides that "different categories of prisoners shall be kept in separate institutions or parts of institutions taking account of their age, sex, criminal record, the legal reason for their detention and the necessities of their treatment."
122 Human Rights Watch interview with Sergeant Mullins, Ewarton Police Station, Jamaica, August 29, 1998.
123 Human Rights Watch interview with Deputy Superintendent Lawrence, Half-Way Tree Police Station, Kingston, Jamaica, September 2, 1998.
125 Human Rights Watch interview with Sergeant MacIntosh, Matilda's Corner Police Station, Jamaica, September 2, 1998.
128 CRC, Articles 3, 24, and 37.
129 U.N. Rules, Arts. 31 and 34.
130 Ibid., Art. 49. See also Beijing Rules, Art. 13.5.
131 Standard Minimum Rules, Art. 20. See also Beijing Rules, Art. 13.1.
132 U.N. Rules, Art. 47. See also Standard Minimum Rules, Art. 21.
133 U.N. Rules, Art. 38. See also Beijing Rules, Art. 13.5, and CRC, Art. 28.
134 Human Rights Watch interview with Commissioner Francis Forbes, August 28, 1998.
135 Human Rights Watch interview with Superintendent McDonald, Portmore Police Station, Jamaica, August 29, 1998.
138 Human Rights Watch interview with Neville Webb, August 28, 1998.
139 Human Rights Watch interview with Commissioner Francis Forbes, August 28, 1998.
140 By "low-level abuse," we mean limiting or denying food, water, access to bathroom facilities, and exercise. Low-level abuse also includes verbal abuse and rough physical treatment when children are picked up by police, during their incarceration, and during their transfers to court and other facilities. For greater discussion of low-level abuse and neglect, see section on "Neglect, Rough Treatment, Mental Abuse," below.
141 CRC, Art. 19.
142 Human Rights Watch interview, Glenhope Place of Safety, Kingston, Jamaica, August 31, 1998. The name of the police lockup has been withheld.
143 It also demonstrates the potential danger inherent in permitting female detainees to be guarded by male security staff. The Standard Minimum Rules provide that "[w]omen prisoners shall be attended and supervised only by women officers." Art. 53(3). Human Rights Watch does not categorically oppose cross-gender guarding; when employed, however, it must be attended by appropriate safeguards to prevent abuses. For a full statement of Human Rights Watch's position on this issue, see Human Rights Watch, All Too Familiar: Sexual Abuse of Women in U.S. State Prisons (New York: Human Rights Watch, 1996).
144 Under international standards, every facility in which juveniles are detained is required to prepare reports detailing information regarding the child's detention, physical, and mental health as soon as possible after reception. See U.N. Rules, Arts. 21-26. However, Superintendent McKeowan at Glenhope Place of Safety explained that her staff is only able to collect rudimentary information upon admission (such as name, date of admission). Julia had been at Glenhope for one week and had never been interviewed about her stay in a police lockup. Julia permitted us to inform the Director of Institutions for the Children's Services Division of her situation. She was subsequently taken to a doctor.
145 Human Rights Watch interview, Homestead Place of Safety, Stoney Hill, September 1, 1998.
147 Human Rights Watch interview, St. Andrew's Remand Center, September 3, 1998.
148 Human Rights Watch interview with "Mark," a fifteen-year-old at St. Andrew's Juvenile Remand Center, Stoney Hill, September 3, 1998 (describing being beaten with sticks by police in Constant Spring lockup); Human Rights Watch interview with "James," a sixteen-year-old at St. Andrew's Juvenile Remand Center, Stoney Hill, September 3, 1998 (describing being beaten with batons by police in Montego Bay lockup).
149 Human Rights Watch interview with Inspector Broomfield, September 2, 1998.
150 Human Rights Watch interview with Sergeant MacIntosh, Matilda's Corner Police Station, Kingston, Jamaica, September 2, 1998.