Monday, May 31, 2004

TT: Jail in TT not a bed of roses

So, what else is new? Amnesty International thinks that TT jails are really bad. I wonder how they compare to Abu Ghraib as run by U.S. soldiers? -- something that Caribbean journalists have had much to say about. What will these same journalists say about AI's report on TT's jails, or will they keep silent because U.S. soldiers don't run the jails?

Amnesty International has painted a damning picture of Trinidad and Tobago's prison system.

"Conditions in places of detention continue to cause grave concern, and in some cases amounted to cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment," it said in a report published at the weekend covering 2003.

Amnesty said many prisoners lacked "the most basic facilities to ensure hygiene".

"Inmate-upon-inmate violence" continued, including "some of a sexual nature," the report said, giving examples of cases where inmates were allegedly beaten by prison guards. It referred to the trial of a prison officer charged with the murder of detainee Anton Cooper in 2002 which had not begun by the end of 2003.
It said that the system of evidence taking and the court system remained hostile to victims, resulting in fewer perpetrators being brought to justice.
"Services such as shelters counselling and support for victims and perpetrators remained inadequate, mediation centres closed and magistrates and judges remained insufficiently aware of and unresponsive to issues related to violence against women, the report said.

It noted that "there were continuing reports of torture and ill-treatment by the police and army, sometimes resulting in death," and cited the death of Shaun McLeod in September last year as an example.
For AI, the glass is never half full. AI uses American jails as the standard for what jails, prison and social services ought to be; then, they determine that what the U.S. offers is insufficient. So, if the U.S. cannot reach the AI goalpost, can anyone else?

I'm not arguing that jail ought to be a hell hole; however, I don't believe that jails ought to be the vacation resorts they are here in the U.S. Half of these characters in jails here need to be doing hard time with really serious manual labor and the cat, instead of spending their days pumping iron and filing frivolous lawsuits.

Can TT jails be improved? Most definitely. They should be; moreover, police and prison officers should be properly trained so that they do not abuse criminals. Nevertheless, jails weren't made to ripen figs, and their austerity ought to serve as an object lesson to keep men from indulging in the criminal behavior that would merit a return trip.


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