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Grand Turk Prison in Breach of Human Rights Standards, investigation finds

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Dana Malcolm 

Staff Writer

 

 

TurksandCaicos, March  14, 2023 – Despite significant upgrades, because of continued overcrowding, poor sanitation, and regular sewage issues, His Majesty’s Prison in Grand Turk is still not fit for human habitation, and is in breach of International Human Rights standards, says the TCI Human Rights Commission following recent investigations carried out in the facility.  

The Commission conducted an unannounced review of the Prison on February 23, after receiving ‘information of alarming conditions’. They say what they found was unacceptable.

“The visit revealed that the facility is currently overcrowded with a total of 131 inmates, which included persons on remand,” said Sabrina Green, Head of the Commission.  Some of the prisoners had been on remand for significant lengths of time impeding their access to justice, and the facilities themselves were found wanting. 

“One of the major issues and concerns identified by the Commission was the back-up of sewage at the facility.  The sewage network at the HMP is dated, and seems to be in disrepair.  The system is not suited to the capacity of individuals housed there.  Pipe blockages occur frequently, when foreign objects are flushed down the toilets, by the inmates, often as a form of protest.  The current issue appears to have been caused by a rock being lodged in the pipes, causing the back-up in one of the septic tanks which resulted in an overflow,” Green explained 

The issue was picked up on February 14th by Magnetic Media, when videos of the gray sludge, and overflowing bathrooms where inmates had to contend, were shared by inmates and their relatives.  It took more than a week before concrete answers were provided for the public by the Ministry of Home Affairs, led by Minister Otis Morris. On February 21st, the Ministry admitted there were issues with sewage and said they were being dealt with. The visit by the Human Rights Commission was two days later. 

Along with the sewage issue that the Commission reported to have found:

  •  Most of the showers are in disrepair except for the White Wing, and currently on one wing, every toilet on the left-hand side fails to flush.  
  • The new and improved Yellow Wing lies empty, despite its working facilities. Inmates cannot be housed in it because it is missing special doors, which can only be sourced from the UK.
  • One of the ‘Women’s Wing’ door locks, also available only in the UK, still remains broken after being reported by the Commission several years ago.

Prisoners, as pointed out by Green, have a right to an adequate standard of living and prison officers must ensure that proper health standards are met, under the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (Article 25).  Despite this, the prison has repeatedly been found to have an inhumane standard of living for people on remand and inmates.

At this time, it is also a concern to the Commission that those incarcerated are getting no outdoor time; managers of the facility have admitted this, the statement says.

“Several of the previous Superintendents in charge of the facility have stated that the only solution is to build a new facility fit for the purpose of incarceration and rehabilitation.  The problems with sewage at the facility are one of the many reasons the facility is not fit for human habitation.”

Magnetic Media interviewed Minister Morris regarding the report; he explained that while he had been out of the country, everything was, by now, ‘back to normal’.  He also explained that, the Cabinet plans to visit the facility on March 8th, which is today – to see the beleaguered prison for themselves. 

While challenges are evident and vexing, the Commission reports that there have been significant upgrades, namely:

  •  The facility stank of sewage. The authorities carried out extensive work on the sewage system in recent years, and now, problems with the sewage are dealt with quickly, even though they still occur. 
  • Previous reviews noted that the water provided to the inmates was discoloured. This was believed to be from rusty cisterns; now, it is of better quality.  
  • In the past, inmates were forced to use buckets in their cells to go to the toilet.
  •  The facility has improved, and Internal fencing and CCTV cameras have made it a much safer place. 

Green admitted that Senior leadership and staff at the prison consistently make efforts to improve the environment. Also, funding for the facility has been acquired but there is a lot of work left to do, and that requires a greater sense of urgency.

“The Commission has been making regular visits to the facility for over a decade, and has witnessed many improvements.  However, these improvements are noted as the best that the authorities can do, with the resources provided by the government, which tends to be temporary solutions to existing problems,” she explained. 

There are efforts for rehabilitation at the prison, which the Commission also acknowledges.  For example, she said, “The farm is an excellent tool for the rehabilitation of offenders, and the classroom at the facility houses have computers connected to the internet that allow several inmates to take online courses, providing genuine qualifications.  These improvements, although commendable, are not enough to comply with International Human Rights standards,” Green maintained.

“There remain many problems with the facility, and each one dehumanises the inmates that little bit more, and acts as a barrier to effective rehabilitation.” 

Using Norway, which has a recidivism rate of 20 percent, Commissioner Green has encouraged the authorities to focus on the prisoners’ wellbeing to make their efforts at rehabilitation effective.

Caribbean News

Government Progressing with Plans to Build Seven STEM and STEAM Schools

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#MontegoBay, July 3, 2024 – The Government is progressing with plans to construct six Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) Schools and one Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts and Mathematics (STEAM) Academy.

Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of National Security, Hon. Dr. Horace Chang, says arrangements to build the STEAM school, being cited in Montego Bay, are “proceeding.”

“The land is acquired and the budget is in place from the Ministry of Finance [and the Public Service]. By the end of the year the Ministry of Education [and Youth] can give a timeframe on it,” he stated.

Regarding construction of the STEM Schools, Dr. Chang advised that  “we will be opening the first one in Portmore [St. Catherine] very soon.”

He was speaking during the University of Technology (UTech) Western Campus’ recent STEM Summer camp launch at the institution’s campus in Montego Bay, St. James.

The camp, being held in western Jamaica for the first time, will see some 100 youth from communities in Hanover, Trelawny and St. James engaging in several STEM-related activities.

For his part, Montego Bay Chamber of Commerce and Industry (MBCCI) President, Oral Heaven, said Jamaica has been declared a ‘STEM island’, adding that the camp serves as testament to the country’s growing prominence in the global STEM landscape.

“This designation opens the door for so many things, through multinational STEM investments [and] real money for our people, positioning Jamaica as a hub of innovation and technological advancement,” he outlined.

Dr. Chang pointed out that there is “a legacy of STEM activity” in the west, noting that the Government is committed to expanding opportunities in the sector.

“It is imperative, therefore, that we attract some of these investments to Montego Bay”, adding that, “we must focus on the positives and potential solutions that STEM can offer.”

The STEM Summer Camp will be held in two phases for junior and senior participants under the theme: ‘Think, Collaborate and Innovate to Grow and Be Resilient’.

Junior participants will attend from July 8-19, and the older youth between July 15 and 26.

 

Contact: Serena Grant

Release: JIS

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TURKS AND CAICOS ISLANDS: NATIONAL SECURITY COUNCIL POST MEETING STATEMENT

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Providenciales, Turks and Caicos Islands – Monday, 1 July 2024: Her Excellency Governor Dileeni Daniel-Selvaratnam and the Hon. Premier Charles Washington Misick, co-chaired a meeting of the Turks and Caicos Islands National Security Council (NSC) on Thursday, 27th June 2024 at the Office of the Premier in Providenciales.

Also in attendance, the Hon. Deputy Premier, the Hon. Attorney General, the Commissioner of the Royal Turks and Caicos Islands Police Force (RTCIPF), the Permanent Secretary National Security Secretariat (NSS), the Head of the Governor’s Office and the NSS Threat Lead.

Apologies were received from the H.E the Deputy Governor and the Hon. Minister for Immigration and Border Services.

Members were briefed by:

  • The Commissioner of Police on the current overview of policing operations and crime, including on the three (3) separate shooting incidents that resulted in four (4) fatalities in Providenciales between 21- 23 June 2024. These incidents are currently under investigation. NSC was also updated on two (2) ongoing safeguarding matters. The RTCIPF are actively pursuing persons of interest. Council discussed strategic approaches to strengthen Offender Management. Council was also updated on the multiagency response and successful rescue to the emergency ‘crash landing’ of a small aircraft inbound to the Howard Hamilton International Airport due to engine failure.
  • Members of the TCI/UK Joint Maritime Security Delivery Board on progress of the UK-funded project to install coastal surveillance radars and various wider maritime security enhancement initiatives which will significantly increase TCI’s Maritime Domain Awareness. The primary function of the TCI/UK Delivery Board is to oversee the current projects and to explore options for strengthening multi-agency collaboration along with identifying opportunities for training and capacity building.
  • Mark Fenhalls KC on his recently completed review of case progression with the criminal justice system. The review was commissioned by the NSC and supported by the UK Ministry of Justice. The focus of the review was to assess the current backlog of cases – particularly, serious violent crime and explore potential considerations to drive justice outcomes in a more expedient manner. Recommendations included wider adaptation of technology and case management systems, cross-training, increasing capacity and infrastructure development. The NSC commissioned an action plan against the recommendations to be taken forward in liaison with criminal justice partners.

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FINALISATION OF CONSTITUTIONAL REFORM PROPOSALS

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Turks and Caicos

 

  1. Today Her Excellency the Governor convened a meeting with the Honourable Premier, the Honourable Leader of the Opposition, the Honourable Attorney General, Sir Jeffrey Jowell KC and the FCDO’s Deputy Director Adam Pile to finalise the package of constitutional reform so it may be submitted to the Privy Council in July. Also in attendance was Her Excellency the Deputy Governor.
  2. The bipartisan constitutional talks with the UK Government in Grand Turk (October 2023) agreed to move to a fully elected House of Assembly*, with four additional elected members replacing the members appointed by the Governor, Premier and Leader of the Opposition. In the wider package of constitutional reform, all other major issues have been agreed in further meetings and correspondence, bar the timing of a transition to a fully elected House of Assembly*.

Scope of work of the Electoral District Boundary Commission

  1. The Electoral District Boundary Commission was stood up in February to review in the first instance the boundaries of the electoral districts into which the islands are divided in line with s.61 of the Constitution. The Governor, in line with the agreement of the UK Government, has asked that they then assess options for the composition of the four additional elected seats. This work will need to be put out to public consultation and submitted to the House of Assembly, after which further work will be required to implement the approved changes.
  2. In order to deliver constitutional reform for the Turks and Caicos Islands this summer, the agreed package of reforms now need to be submitted to the UK Government so it may be made by His Majesty The King in the Privy Council in July.

Transition to an all-elected House of Assembly*

  1. Given this timing, it was noted that there are two options for the transition to an all-elected House of Assembly*:
  1. A transitionary phase that provides for an all-elected House of Assembly* at the forthcoming election with four additional ‘all island’ candidates for the next term, following which the further work of the Electoral District Boundary Commission will inform the composition of the four additional seats going forward; or
  2. Retain the status quo of four appointed members at the forthcoming election and wait to move to an all-elected House* until the subsequent election, following the work of the Electoral District Boundary Commission which will inform the composition of the four additional seats.
  1. Agreement was not reached at the meeting on which option to pursue.
  1. The Honourable Premier continues in his view that the transition to an all-elected House* should take place at the forthcoming election with the four additional elected seats contested on an ‘all island’ basis. This would be a transitionary phase, until the subsequent election where the work of the Electoral District Boundary Commission will inform what additional constituencies may be implemented.
  2. The Honourable Leader of the Opposition has confirmed his view that the transition to an all-elected House of Assembly* should not take place at the forthcoming election, that the status quo should be retained with four appointed members; and the move to an all-elected House of Assembly should only take place at the subsequent election, where the work of the Electoral District Boundary Commission will inform what additional constituencies may be implemented.
  1. In light of the need to provide a clear position to the UK Government, a motion will be tabled for debate in the House of Assembly to allow a full debate on when a fully elected legislature should be introduced.
  • other than the Attorney General

 

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