It's our policy that convicted persons shouldn't be in the same cells as the unconvicted, that juveniles should not be in the same cells as adults, that women should not be in the same cells as men, and that people charged with major crimes shouldn't be kept with people charged with minor crimes. That's our policy. The problem . . . is systems and structures. Unconvicted prisoners and juveniles should not be the responsibility of the police. It's giving the police a job for which they're not properly equipped.
- Francis Forbes, Commissioner of Police177
The law is in place, but the practical realities do not conform with the requirements of the law. This is why the conditions remain poor for juveniles in detention.
-Lloyd Barnett, Jamaican Council for Human Rights.178
Governmental agencies and nongovernmental organizations alike agree that inadequate resources and facilities contribute to the poor conditions Jamaican children face in detention. Because there is inadequate space for both adult and juveniles in the existing remand centers, Jamaican judges order adults and children remanded to police lockups.
Francis Forbes, the Commissioner of Police, complained that ninety percent of the police lockup population are remand cases and that police are not trained to handle remand prisoners, nor are the lockups designed to cope with large numbers of detainees for long periods.179 The police superintendents we interviewed at Spanish Town, Portmore, Gun Court, Half-Way Tree, Matilda's Corner, Ewarton, and Kingston-Central police stations echoed the Commissioner'scomplaint. Many acknowledged that children-and adult prisoners, for that matter-were treated poorly, but blamed inadequate resources or poor facilities. For instance, Superintendent Adams at Spanish Town lockup commented that keeping those awaiting trial in police custody is "a little prejudicial" and told us that he wished that the remand cases could be transferred to proper correctional facilities.180 The capacity of Spanish Town lockup is fifty prisoners. On the day we visited, Superintendent Adams informed us that there were 138 people being held in the lockup.
While juvenile crime has increased dramatically in recent years in Jamaica, the juvenile justice system has not grown adequately to accommodate the added burden. There is only one juvenile remand center-St. Andrew's Juvenile Remand Center in Stoney Hill-with an official capacity of forty-eight.181 There is no remand facility for girls. And so far, the government seems to have done little to experiment with noninstitutional alternatives for nonviolent young offenders.
The Department of Children's Services reported that there are fourteen places of safety (ten government operated and four private) around the island.182 Children's Services told us that the number of spaces available in these places of safety is adequate,183 yet we met many children in police lockups because, police claim, there is no room for them in the Kingston area places of safety. For those children who have been convicted of an offense, there are three juvenile correctional facilities on the island (two for boys, one for girls) which are always at full capacity.184
"While the Jamaican government policy [regarding juvenile justice] is good, in practice the system doesn't work. The Jamaican juvenile justice system suffers from stratified and fragmented systems and procedures."
-Afshan Kahn, UNICEF Representative186
While the Jamaican police, the Department of Children's Services, the Family and Juvenile Courts, and the Department of Correctional Services all bear significant legal responsibilities for children in detention under the Jamaican juvenile justice system, poor coordination and overlapping responsibilities often result in what one former Children's Services employee described as children "falling through the cracks of the system."187
The result of these system failures is the chronic overincarceration of children, both juvenile offenders and those in need of care and protection, and severe mistreatment of many children in police custody.
Although police are required to contact the Department of Children's Services after taking a child into custody, in practice they frequently fail to do so. The police may choose to detain a child because they do not have the resources (time, transport, telephone) to identify a place of safety and take the child there. For children charged with violent offenses, police are unlikely to find available space in the single juvenile remand center (capacity forty-eight). Moreover, an officer may find the only open spaces in a place of safety to be on another part of the island. In such cases, the police officer will likely detain the child in a police lockup.
The problems of resource scarcity are further aggravated at rural police stations, and children detained there are even less likely to be transferred to a place of safety. One human rights observer we spoke with commented that the attitude of the child may affect the police officer's decision to detain him in a lockup or transfer him to a place of safety.188 Another suggested that detention in policelockups awaiting trial has become a form of punishment itself,189 in blatant violation of international standards for the treatment of pretrial detainees.
While the Department of Children's Services is also authorized under Jamaican law to transfer children to places of safety,190 it does not currently have the capacity to regularly monitor police lockups and is therefore unlikely to ameliorate this problem, since it only becomes aware of the presence of children in lockups if it is notified by the police.
When children are detained in police lockups, even for a few days, they are exposed to potential abuse and neglect. By the admission of Commissioner Forbes, however, the police are not trained or equipped to handle long-term remanded prisoners.191 Nor are the police trained to deal with children.
Moreover, because police do not consistently contact the Department of Children's Services when they take custody of a child, important social services are not provided to the child until after his or her first court date. Because a detained child has no children's officer until Children's Services is involved, his family may not be aware of the child's condition, nor is the child likely to have access to medical facilities if needed.
Perhaps most fundamentally, a child has no advocate while he is detained in police custody. The case of Lane, the thirteen-year-old boy who had been detained for eight months in a Ewarton police lockup on a petty theft charge, provides a graphic example of how children can be lost in the system.
Although a child's first court appearance should result in the determination of the child's status, it is often not so in practice. Because Children's Services is often unaware of a child's presence in police custody until the first court appearance, no Children's Officer is appointed before the first court date. As a result, the judge can render a decision with limited information about the child or remand the child pending further investigation of his family situation. In practice, judges most frequently choose the latter.
It is here that facility shortages are critical. If there are no places available in the juvenile remand center, a child will be remanded by the court to the police lockup. While observing a session of the Kingston Family Court, the Human Rights Watch team encountered just such a problem. A fifteen-year-old was returned to Matilda's Corner police lockup by the judge because there was no spaceopen in the remand center. As we watched, the judge told the boy, "It's not right that young boys should be locked up. Whatever you have done, we can't just give up on you. It's wrong. But there is nothing I can do-I have to send you back [to the lockup] until your trial."
Even when the child has been remanded to a place of safety by the court, the juvenile justice system breaks down. None of the places of safety visited by Human Rights Watch had an adequate formal intake procedure conforming to international standards.192 Moreover, few superintendents of places of safety received regular reports from children's officers. One official at a place of safety explained that the turnover of children is frequently so fast that he doesn't receive a report about the child until after the child has left the place of safety.193
Without proper information about the child, the staff at the place of safety has little chance of acting in the child's best interest-as the case of the fifteen-year-old girl who told us she was raped by police illustrates. Based upon our visits to four places of safety in the Kingston area,194 it also appears that children frequently remain in these facilities for longer than the ninety day period that several officials mentioned as the maximum time for which a child should remain detained.
Other elements which contribute to the failures of the criminal justice system are the frequent postponement of trial dates for juvenile offenders and court appearances in which the child's status is not resolved nor his case decided because of procedural delays. While the Human Rights Watch team observed that most children in detention had frequent court appearances, judges commonly postponed the proceedings. As one Children's Services official told us, "Juveniles in state facilities spend too much time in limbo, between court appearances, while the family situation is evaluated, or evidence is gathered. It takes too long for the court to issue a final order, and the child may be forced to stay in a police lockup or another facility for weeks or months."195
While observing the proceedings of Kingston Family Court, the Human Rights Watch team witnessed evidence of this. Dwight, a fifteen-year-old boy, appeared before the court on September 4, 1998. The case was postponed becausethe Crown could not present its case; one of the key witnesses for the prosecution was absent. Judges Soares, the presiding judge, noted that the trial had been delayed since May 1997 and complained that "these delays can not be fair and just." Notwithstanding the judge's concern for equity, Dwight was sent back to the police lockup at Matilda's Corner to wait for his next court appearance.
179 Human Rights Watch interview with Commissioner Francis Forbes, August, 28, 1998.
180 Human Rights Watch interview with Superintendent Adams, August 29, 1998.
181 Human Rights Watch interview with June Jarrett, September 2, 1998.
182 Human Rights Watch interview with Winston Bowen, August 31, 1998.
183 Human Rights Watch interview with Claudette Hemmings, August 31, 1998.
184 Human Rights Watch interview with June Jarrett, September 2, 1998.
185 For an overview of how the system should operate, see "Agencies With Responsibility for Children," in Section III, "Background," supra, pp. 20-22.
186 Human Rights Watch interview with Afshan Khan, UNICEF Country Representative, Kingston, Jamaica, September 1, 1998.
187 Human Rights Watch interview with Claudette Parris, former Superintendent, Glenhope Place of Safety, Kingston, August 31, 1998.
189 Human Rights Watch interview with Leo Aquiano, September 1, 1998.
190 Juveniles Act, Art.30.
191 Human Rights Watch interview with Commissioner Francis Forbes, August 28, 1998.
192 See U.N. Rules, Art. 21-26.
193 Human Rights Watch interview with Superintendent Albert Stamp, September 1, 1998.
194 The Human Rights Watch team visited Lady Musgrave Girls Home, Glenhope Place of Safety, Glenhope Nursery, and Homestead Place of Safety.
195 Human Rights Watch interview with Ambassador Marjorie Taylor, August 31, 1998.