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Horrible and inhumane conditions - Persons complain of appalling housing of detainees of state of emergency

Published:Wednesday | January 24, 2018 | 12:00 AMAdrian Frater/News Editor
Relatives of detainees under the state of emergency speak with a police officer outside Freeport Police Station in St James yesterday.
The Freeport Police Station in St James, where relatives of detainees under the state of emergency were asked to wait on the outside.


The ongoing detention of some of the persons held by the security forces since the declaration of the state of public emergency in St James last Thursday, as well as the conditions under which they are being housed, is creating much anguish and frustration for many families, who feel they are being victimised by the State.

"You have persons round there from last week who have not been able to communicate with their families, eat a decent meal, bathe, or even change their clothes," a frustrated mother told The Gleaner outside the gates of the Freeport Police Station in Montego Bay yesterday. "Nobody knows what is happening. We just hear that they are being processed."

One woman, who was fortunate enough to be allowed to visit her brother, returned in tears, saying that the conditions were horrible to the point that she believed that the detainees human rights were being violated.

"In deh overcrowded. Dem jam up like dem inna sardine tin, the place wetty-wetty and nasty, and everybody a bawl fi hungry," the woman said as other persons crowded around to hear what was happening. "Dem a treat dem like everybody round deh a criminal. It just wicked. This must be a violation of dem human rights."

While admitting that the conditions in the detention area, where over 100 persons are being held, are far from ideal, a senior police officer at the Freeport facility told The Gleaner that efforts were being made to address the congestion, albeit they were facing major management challenges.

"Because of the overcrowding, some of the detainees have been transferred to the Barnett Street lock-up," the officer, who asked not to be identified, said. "I also believe that by now, contact has been made with the relatives of all the detainees, and I am sure they got food today."




Like the irate families of the detainees, the senior police officer admitted to wholesale confusion in regard to the processing, saying that the military and the police were not operating in unison, a concern that was raised by two prominent ministers of religion on Tuesday.

"The soldiers claim that they are the ones running things, and they are not communicating with us, so we have, very little control over what is happening," the senior officer continued. "Our superiors have, seemingly, ceded control to the soldiers. They have even instructed us not to communicate with the media."

Following a tour of the Freeport facility on Tuesday, Public Defender Arlene Harrison Henry described the conditions as dehumanising and raised grave concerns about five teenage detainees, who, seemingly, were there for no apparent reason.

"The conditions are dehumanising. They have no bedding and they have no running water," said Harrison Henry. "The children in there are all enrolled in school, so that is something we have to follow up on."

Interestingly, many of the detainees are said to be working persons, whose detention has taken them away from their jobs for up to five days in some instances. Some relatives are worried that their continued detention could jeopardise their jobs.

"My son is not from St James. I sent him to Montego Bay last Saturday to do a transaction for me, and he was picked up by soldiers, and he has been in detention since," said a Hanover mother. "My son works at a hotel. He is highly regarded at his job, and he has never ever been in trouble with the law. I am hurting about what they have done to him because it is not right."

Both the Legal Aid Council and the Cornwall Bar Association also continued to raise concerns about detainees, who require legal representations but who are not able to get it because of the confusion with processing. Twenty-three legal aid attorneys and six senior lawyers have been assigned to work with the detainees.