Prison Conditions in Haiti

Created April 13, 2011

DOS 2010 Report. Haiti, at 3-6.

“Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman, or Degrading Treatment or Punishment

“The law prohibits such practices, but there were some reports of degrading treatment, most notably in prisons, during the year.

“Prison and Detention Center Conditions

“Prisoners reported physical abuse by correctional officers; prisons also suffered from corruption and neglect. Due to insufficient staffing, equipment, and security officers avoided some cellblocks. At times officials used lethal force against prisoners to quell inmate uprisings (see section 1.a.).

“Prisons and detention centers throughout the country remained overcrowded, poorly maintained, and unsanitary. Overcrowding was severe; in some prisons detainees slept in shifts due to lack of space. The earthquake, which damaged several prisons, intensified the existing problems... Some prisons had no beds for detainees; some cells had no access to sunlight. Many prison facilities lacked basic services such as medical services, water, electricity, and medical isolation units for contagious patients. Many prisoners and detainees suffered from a lack of basic hygiene, malnutrition, poor quality health care,

and illness caused by the presence of rodents. Some prisons did not allow prisoners out of their cells for exercise.

“On October 17 [2010], prisoners at the National Penitentiary overpowered guards in an attempted prison break... The authorities regained control of the penitentiary, but three prisoners were killed in the process... In some prisons the incidence of preventable diseases such as AIDS, malaria, and drug-resistant tuberculosis remained a serious problem. The cholera outbreak also affected the prisons. Within the first week of the outbreak, five detainees in the Mirebalais Prison died. The Bureau of Prisons responded by limiting outside contact.

“At [20 10]'s end the total prison population, including both pretrial detainees and sentenced prisoners in the country's 17 prisons, was more than three times the planned capacity of the country's prisons...

“Port-au-Prince maintained separate penitentiaries for adult men and women, but in other prisons, there were instances of male and female prisoners being held together due to space constraints. Children 16 and older were confined with adults. Minors and adults sometimes occupied the same cells due to lack of available space. Pretrial detainees were held together with convicted prisoners in the women's prison. When space was available, boys were held in a separate cell of a facility in Port-au-Prince. By law that facility may hold only boys ages 13 to 15, although a few child inmates claimed to be as young as age 10. Girls were not held separately from women at the Petionville Women's Penitentiary.

“...[Visitor access] policies were suspended at the end of October in response to the nationwide cholera outbreak. The Administration of Prisons barred any outsider from entering prisons...

“... Primary concerns for most groups monitoring the conditions in the prisons related to adequate water, food, and sanitation. Although some programs, such as efforts to improve sanitation and health care delivery at the CPPP reported success, the government did not implement many changes recommended by NGOs and donor governments...”

UNHRC Report on Haiti, Annex, at 9: “The prison situation

  1. As on each of his previous visits the independent expert went to places of imprisonment[,]... for example to the prison at Les Cayes and the national prison. Both these establishments are overcrowded, and the prisoners and untried detainees live in cruel, inhuman and degrading conditions within the meaning of the Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment.
  2. ... Because of the risk that some parts of the building may collapse, the prisoners and untried detainees were installed together in a single building, in which the conditions of detention are even harsher than before the earthquake...
  3. One of the justice system’s current problems is the disappearance of the case files of prison inmates. During the post-earthquake escape part of the prison was torched and the files were looted and burned.
  4. ... The independent expert met with several detainees and ... reiterates his recommendations concerning the judicial processing of the persons currently held in the national prison, with a view to reducing the overcrowding (A/HRC/14/44, para. 96) ...
  5. A mutiny erupted at the Les Cayes prison on 19 January [,2010] and was put down harshly by the National Police, with a dozen inmates killed and a score wounded, in a manner which calls for a serious and impartial inquiry...

IA CHR Press Release:Suspend Deportations:

“The deportation of seriously ill persons to Haiti could jeopardize their lives, considering the humanitarian crisis that persists in the country, especially the detention conditions in jails and prisons. According to the information received by the Commission, detention centers in Haiti are overcrowded, and the lack of drinking water and adequate sanitation or toilets could facilitate the transmission of cholera, tuberculosis, and other diseases. The IACHR is also concerned that once they arrive in Haiti, seriously ill persons could remain in detention without access to food, drinking water, and adequate medical treatment. Along these lines, U.S. immigrant advocacy organizations informed the Commission that a person of Haitian origin deported on January 20, 2011, has died in a Haitian prison for reasons that have not yet been officially established, after showing symptoms of cholera...

UNHRC Report on Haiti at 11-12:
“The situation in the prisons

  1.  In his previous reports the independent expert drew attention to the difficult situation of Haiti’s prisons, characterized principally by overcrowding and excessively long periods of pretrial detention, these two factors being closely interrelated. During his visitsto other departments he was able to establish that this situation was not limited to Port- au-Prince but was to be found, with rare exceptions, not only in the prisons but also in some National Police stations.
  2. The situation has undergone a complete reversal since the earthquake. Several prisons were damaged and, according to the Haitian authorities, some 5,000 inmates took advantage of the earthquake to escape ...[M]ost ... are still at large. Some of them are said to have found refuge in the Cité Soleil quarter, ... and to have stolen firearms from their warders in the course of their escape.
  3. ...[M]any judicial documents seem to have been destroyed in the post-earthquake chaos. Little is left of the files of the national prison, where traces of fire were found in a cell; this circumstance increases the risk of unfair treatment of detainees by the justice system.
  1. Detainees are currently crammed into cells in various prisons and police stations in difficult conditions. Open-air camps have also been set up, in Port-au-Prince in particular, close to Logbase; the inmates of these camps are exposed to public view to the detriment of their dignity...

At footnote. 13: “In his latest report the expert indicated that the proportion of prison inmates being held in pretrial detention was close to 80 per cent and that the floor space allocated to each detainee in the civilian prison in Port-au-Prince was less than half a square metre (A/HRC/1 1/5, para. 59).

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